Most animals instinctively know how to deliver their own offspring. However, there are times where things may not go as expected. If you have sheep ready to deliver, it is best to know some of the things necessary to have on hand and what to do if an emergency occurs during the lambing process.
Most often people raise sheep for economic reasons as a secondary income as well as the love of the animals. Sheep can be a benefit to the land as they are small and graze on the vegetation, maintaining any overgrown landscaping. Some people keep sheep as a food source, dairy products and fiber for their families. Raising sheep is a much easier livestock than most others. Some even keep them as companion animals or pets. If you wish to breed your sheep, the Ewe most often goes in season in the fall months although this can vary. Once impregnated, the gestation period for mama is an average of 147 days until the birth. With a healthy mom, the Ewe will not need any assistance in bearing her newborn. However, there may be a time when your help is needed in order to help your sheep give birth.
Preparing for the birth begins for the inside out. Mama sheep should be kept on a highly nutritious diet that consist of wholesome concentrated grain, along with supplemental sources of protein and calcium. Also feed your Ewe mineral mixes that include Selenium and Vitamin E, using formulas specifically for your sheep. Feed your Ewe according to weight and don’t overfeed as it could contribute to a difficult birth.
Prepare the birthing area for the new arrival. The area should be clean with fresh bedding laid out in the pen area which should be approximately 12 to 14 square feet. It will be apparent when the time is drawing near. There is a list of supplies you may want to have on hand near the birthing area should there be any complications or if you need to help your sheep give birth. Some of the items you need on hand may be –
1. Rubber Gloves
2. Birthing lubricant
3. Nylon rope or leg puller (should you have to help pull out the baby)
4. Warming lamps for the new arrival
5. Towels for wiping and cleaning the baby
6. Antibiotics for the new momma you had to help
7. Needles and syringes
8. Feeding tubes
9. Frozen colostrum and colostrum supplements
10. Lamb milk replacements and nipples if you need to feed the baby
11. Sling or other scale to weigh the new arrival
12. Other medical first aid as well as your veterinarian’s phone number should a difficult situation arise
Your sheep will know how to give birth naturally. You will note your sheep is restless, showing signs of contractions. There may be mucus seepage as well as the water breaking. The little lamb should be coming out feet first with the head tucked between, followed by the afterbirth. Be sure the baby is fine, breathing, up and suckling on mom.
Sometimes the birth is not quite so simple due to the baby possibly being breach, one leg has fallen back or the head has fallen back. In such cases you may need to help momma deliver the baby safely. If one of the legs is back you may be able to use the rubber gloves and stick a hand inside the birth canal to get the leg forward and then proceed with pulling the lamb out and down towards the ground, holding onto both legs. Be sure to start cleaning the face of the lamb to clear breathing passages and get it to take its first breath. If it appears to have difficulty, hold it up by the rear legs, swinging it back and forth and tapping it on its back as if to be burping it until you can see it attempt to catch a breath. You can also tickle its nose which can work to make it breathe.
If the lambs head has fallen back, you will need to push that baby back into the birth canal until the head positions itself between the legs. The lamb cannot come out with the head fallen back or it will damage both the baby and mama. Once in position you can grab the legs as before and pull the lamb out and down towards the ground.
If the lamb is breech, it can be born as such though you must do so in one quick move. Grab the lamb in the backwards position and pull out and down towards the ground, quickly, to avoid the baby ingesting any fluids. In all cases be sure to clean the baby, especially the face and get it breathing as soon as possible. Just be sure the baby is feeding as it should and check on it often for that reason. Clean up the birthing area and dispose of any afterbirth so the Ewe does not eat it. Momma usually takes over from there.