Friday, February 3, 2017

How to Tell When Your Ewe is Going to Lamb

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I am thirty weeks pregnant and simultaneously super excited and a little nervous. I know I've said it before, but this pregnancy is flying by. I can't believe I'm going to have another squish to snuggle in just two months! We should probably get our butt in gear and pick out some names, purchase another car-seat, and dig out the baby clothes. It's crazy how with the first kid you plan everything and by the third you're all, "eh, everything will work out just fine!"

But anyways.... we aren't here to talk about human babies today.

Let's talk about sheep and how to tell when your ewe will have her lambs.

Knowing when to be on the lookout for lambs can be very helpful so you can prepare your supplies ahead of time and make yourself available to assist in the delivery if needed.

There are many signs to look for but my husband and I have found that the best way is to look at your calendar, circle the day that would be the most inconvenient day for your ewe to go into labor, and that will be the day she will lamb.

Ok. Ok. Maybe that isn't entirely accurate :)

Here is a short video discussing some of the signs to watch for but read the post below for more information.

(Warning: Don't watch if sheep butts gross you out!)

The first thing to remember is that sheep, just like people, don't have a specific due date. It is more like a lambing window. So even if you know the exact date of breeding you won't have an exact due date.

With this in mind, it can be helpful to know either the date of breeding or at least know in what time period breeding occurred. Two falls ago we kept our ram separate from the flock until we wanted breeding season to begin. That way we knew not to expect lambs until at least Mid-March. This year we put the ram in with the flock in August which means we have a much longer lambing window. We have been on lamb-watch since the beginning of January.

The breed of sheep you have can also affect when lambing will occur. Some sheep, like our Icelandics, are very seasonal. This means that they won't even begin cycling until late October. It makes for a very predictable lambing season since I know to not expect those lambs until sometime in April. Some other sheep breeds have been known to cycle year-round. This is why many shepherds will keep the ram separate from the rest of the flock until they want breeding to occur.

Now, let's say you have your lambing window narrowed down. How do you know when she will actually give birth? While there is no tried and true method, there are some signs to look for.

  • The ewe may start acting "different." If you have a small flock you probably know each sheep's personality pretty well and will notice if she seems "off."
  • She may start acting extra lovey-dovey, stop eating, or separate herself from the rest of the flock.
  • The udder may become distended and start to feel full.
  • Her vulva will appear swollen, dilated, and will be darker in color.
  • She may begin leaking fluid from her vulva. From my experience, when this happens lambing will occur within 24 hours. 
We have found that most of our ewes exhibit these signs before birth but don't be surprised if one of yours doesn't. I hear not all sheep read my blog :) Farm-life can be unpredictable and sometimes the only signs we see are the lambs themselves.

Here is a post/video of one of our ewes giving birth last year.

Have a great weekend! Let me know how your lambing season goes in the comments below! 

P.S. This post may be linked up with some of my favorite blog hops.

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