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Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:18

Don't shift a ewe soon after she has lambed

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When a ewe is preparing to lamb, she’ll try to find a quiet spot for a birth site. She’ll paw and sniff the ground, getting up and lying down as labour progresses, and turning round to see what has happened.

As her waters burst on this birth site, the smell will anchor her to that spot. So if you don’t see all this pre-birth behaviour, you may dive in and shift her, for example to what you think is a better spot. She’ll not agree because the smell of her waters has dictated where the lambs must logically be located.

So often you try to shift a ewe, even after she has lambed, and all she wants to do is to run back (defying the dog) to get back to the smell of the birth site. Nature has told the ewe that her lambs must be near where her waters burst – and it can be very frustrating if you don’t understand this. You can end up stressing the ewe so she'll end up leaving the lamb(s).

So, let a ewe lamb where she has chosen, and leave her alone her for at least a couple of days before shifting her to another paddock. Research has shown that ewes with strong maternal instincts will hang around the birth site for at least a couple of days.

Dr Clive Dalton

Clive did a Ph.D. in sheep breeding at the University of North Wales at Bangor. After lecturing at Leeds University, he came to New Zealand to do research with MAF. Because of his communication skills, he moved to the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre to be fully involved in interpreting science for practical application by farmers.

After 14 years he moved to teach at the Waikato Polytechnic where he taught young future farmers. He won the 1993 Landcorp Communicator of the Year award and the 1999 Sir Arthur Ward award for agricultural communication.