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Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:31

Signs of lambing

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  • A few weeks before lambing the ewe will “bag up”. You’ll see her udder swelling.
  • Nearer lambing her vulva will swell and you may see some mucous discharge.
  • The ewe will separate from the flock if there is room to find a quiet area.
  • She will prepare a birth site by smelling the ground, pawing the ground with her front feet, and going round and round.
  • She’ll get up and down a lot as birth pains start to build up.
  • A small “water bag” will appear protruding from the vulva. This is the bag the lamb is in and is quite normal.
    A prolapse is a large red organ - this is the vagina and uterus turned inside out. This needs very great care to put back and needs a retainer to hold it in.
  • The water bag will burst and then you should see front feet and a nose.
  • If you don’t see front feet and nose - things are not normal and some manipulation may be needed.
  • The ewe will smell the ground a lot where her waters have burst.
  • She’ll then soon lie down and push the lamb out.
  • She may get up and down during these pushes and look round smelling the ground - almost looking for the lamb.
  • With the final push the lamb will be delivered and the membranes over the lamb should rupture.
  • The ewe will stand up and turn round to lick the lamb - and hopefully chew the membranes from the lambs nose so it does not suffocate.
  • The ewe eating the afterbirth is quite normal.
  • The cord will break when the ewe turns round. Stretching the cord helps to stop any bleeding.
  • Don’t break the cord until the lamb starts to breathe.
  • The afterbirth will be pushed out soon after the lamb. If it does not, don’t worry about it unless the ewe becomes sick. 
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.