This fact sheet was developed by students enrolled in Purdue's ANSC 442 Sheep Management course in Spring 1998, as a semester project. These fact sheets provide useful information on various topics related to sheep. View the list of fact sheets.
|The Lambing Process|
What this page covers:
Preparing for lambing
Try and make sure you have everything you may need on hand. Also, prepare your lambing areas so you won't be caught off guard. For example, here's a checklist of things you may want to have available:
What signs to look for
Since the normal gestation period of sheep is around 140-145 days, look for these signs around day 135 or so. These signs usually mean that delivery will be during the next 2-15 hours. The ewe will feel most comfortable if not disturbed and the birth may proceed more smoothly.
This is the usual order of events during delivery:
How to pull a lamb
Hopefully, you'll never need to but since it is a rather common occurrence, know how to pull a lamb if needed. Allow approximately 45 minutes to an hour to pass after the water breaks before attempting to intervene. If no progress has been made after this time, there is probably a malpresentation or a mismatch between lamb size and the ewe's pelvic size. Never rush pullng lambs because further damage may be caused or even death to the ewes and/or lambs.
1.Put on OB gloves and lubricate with OB gel. Lubricant and disinfectant are important to reduce risk of infection. Also, gloves are important because a few abortive diseases can be passed from sheep to people so women should be especially cautious.
2.Feel for the cervix to determine if it is dilated.
3.If not gently palpate cervix to dilate ewe.
4.Feel for the lamb's head or feet. Always have a mental image of what you are feeling to get a clear understanding of what is wrong.
5.Determine the lamb's position in the uterus. (Note: normal position is head between two front feet coming through the pelvis and birth canal. Front legs can be determined by how the joints bend. Both joints of the same leg bend in the same direction. The joints of a back leg will bend in opposite directions.)There are a number of different possibilities for presentation of the lamb:
It is helpful to have a lambing snare for most of these situations to keep the lamb's head and/or legs in the right position once things are figured out.
6.Grab the head and front legs to pull out of ewe. Once they are outside of the body, begin to pull side to side and towards the ground.
7.Clean mucus and water bag from lamb's head. Use a piece of straw to induce the lamb to sneeze or breathe. Another possibility is to swing lamb by back legs to get airflow started. Don't clean all of the afterbirth from lamb so that ewe will claim the lamb.
8.Check for other lambs in ewe. On the other hand, the first birth may not have needed assistance bu the next one will. Allow approximately 30-45 minuted to pass before trying to assist with the next lamb.
9.Clear mucus from around lamb's mouth and nose. using something such as a piece of bedding, gently insert a short distance into the nose to clear the nasal passage or induce the lamb to sneeze which also achieve the same thing.
10.Gently swing the lamb by its back feet with one hand , stopping it abruptly with the other to increase air intake
11. Place lamb by its mother's head so she can clean the afterbirth. Do not remove the after birth because the ewe will use the scent to recognize her lamb.
Antibiotics should be given to the ewe to reduce risk of infection.
How to prepare for post lambing
Try to keep the lambs dry and warm for at least the first hour.Once the ewe is done and has begun cleaning the lamb to the point where it is almost dry, the ewe and lamb(s) should be separated from other sheep if possible. Here's a checklist for a good post lambing area:
Make sure the lambs receive colostrum within the first 2 hours after birth. A 10 pound lamb should receive 8 ounces of colostrum. Strip the plug from the teats to ensure presence of colostrum.
Keeping records can keep an operation running smoothly by monitoring ewe and ram performance and by keeping track of rates of gain. At birth, consider making records of
It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the lamb's udder and milk production. Poor production or mastitis can seriously hinder lamb performance. Udders should contain plenty of milk and not have hard spots. On the other hand, a ewe may overporduce and need to be milked.
So now that you have successfully completed lambing, you can sleep well.
Page developed by Robert Pearl, Melissa Heckart, and Chris Wehmer. Spring 1998.