Monday, 16 April 2012

Lambing a ewe

Sometimes sheep need assistance to get lambed succesfully. By succesfully I mean that hopefully the outcome will be a live sheep and a live lamb.

For what ever reason ewes do occasionally struggle, it is our job to try and work out when to intervene and when is best left alone. I always prefer leaving alone but there are times when intervention is necessary.

 
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Ewes tend to pick their spot, both indoors and outdoors, they choose where they intend to settle down and lamb. They sniff the ground, sometimes scratch at it, turn around a few times to decide which way they want to point before lying down to commence labour. Restless they can be. They can be up and down like yoyos whilst lambing, often turning around to check whether it is there yet or not, huge look of disapointment on their faces to find that it isn't! That is exactly what the above ewe is doing, her waters probably broke and she is dismayed to find that is all that happened.
 
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Time to lie down and have another go.
 
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and smile for the camera at the same time, I don't think she'd be impressed if she thought she looked cute or comical, she'd probably sum it up as uncomfortable at the very least

This ewe put a great deal of effort into her labour, there were some enormous pushes came out of her
 
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Finally something was happening, there was a foot - definitely a foot and a front one at that, excellent! Lambs ought to come into this world with two front feet and a nose, this was a pretty good start.
 
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A great deal more effort was put into the proceedings, and even more effort still. For all the effort this ewe put into getting shot of her lamb the view remained the same - one foot.

When a ewe really pushes and strains on for a duration it is expected that the view might well change, two feet? a nose even?
 
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In this case there was just a foot, one very lonely foot and one ewe tiring. Shep intervened.

On further inspection there was no doubt a big lamb was trying to head into this world, the size of the feet and the strength of the bone on its leg said it all, the other leg was tucked up, doing a grand job of putting the brakes on, making the bulk greater than it ought to be for sliding out of the ewe.
 
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The second foot was encouraged to come and join it's mate, make life a bit easier for the ewe.
 
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Once both feet were out the legs did follow along with the first sighting of a nose.
 
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Then the head began to come into view.
 
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It was a big head to match the big feet and strong legs. I applied pressure to the legs, not pulling, just keeping taut. As the ewe pushed she found the lamb edged out easier with the assistance I was giving
 
eventually even more lamb came out into the open.
 
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Success! Even though the lamb isn't completely out of the ewes body it is already lifting it's head, she will soon be up on her feet.

This lamb had found the mucus removed from it's nose as soon as the nose had come into the open, do to my intervention, it is one of the first things we all do, ready for it's first gasp, the least slutter there is for it to draw onto it's lungs the better. The above photograph also illustrates how easy it can be to lose a lamb at this stage. Should the sheet on the lamb not have broken and the ewe decides to take a well deserved breather before springing to her feet the lamb will find itself either breathing in all the fluids or basically suffocating in 'a plastic bag'. By the time the ewe gets to her feet it is all too late. Lamb is dead. Suffocated.
 
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Sometimes these lambs appear all twisted in their shroud, due to the fact they were trying to breath, their bodies start to flail and twist, unfortunately though, unless the bag breaks they will inevitably smother. Known in the trade as sheeted. Can happen even in sheds with people on hand, takes no time at all for a lamb to find its first breath is going to be its last.
 
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This lamb was going to be fine, mother was soon up on her feet and beginning to lick the lamb, bonding with it, cleaning it, drying it, stimulating it.
 
 
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The instinct is to get footed on unsteady legs like when some of us who have partaken in too much falling down water
 
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But eventually with a sturdy leg at each corner the lamb manages to balance it's bulk and remain in an upright position.
 
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Once footed and balanced there is only on objective - head for the bar! Milk bar that is. Amazing how the instinct is there for the newborns to get up on their feet and head in the right direction to find food.

2 comments:

Dr Clive Dalton said...

Brilliant blogs about the lambing Shep over the last few weeks.

Great teaching resource for both town and country folk, especially the kids.

Keep up the good work - but keep the batteries charged, as once lambing is over - shepherds ken that work never stops till lamb sales are over, and your thinking 'tups' again!

Tarset Shepherd said...

Thanks Clive, yup, you're right, the work is never ending, there's not many can say they get a 'breather' at lambing time!