The lambing period is undoubtedly an exciting time for sheep owners as that means an increase in the number of sheep on your farm and having those cute little lambs running is pretty awesome. However, that won’t happen overnight since they have gestation periods, so how long do sheep stay pregnant?
Sheep stay pregnant for 5 months or about 146 days, but their average gestation period is 144 to 152 days. However, don’t be surprised if your sheep’s pregnancy lasts slightly longer or shorter than 5 months.
Developing a breeding program for your sheep is straightforward since these animals have a predictable, natural reproductive cycle.
How Many Months Is a Sheep Pregnant For?
Sheep are pregnant for 5 months. This means that sheep carry lambs for 144 to 152 days before giving birth to one or multiple lambs. However, the days aren’t set in stone so they could vary from sheep to sheep.
For instance, the gestation period of meat-type and medium-wool breeds is shorter than fine-wool sheep breeds. Additionally, Ouessant sheep, a small sheep breed, have a 149 to 155 days gestation period.
In addition, the number of days a sheep is pregnant is influenced by various factors like the number of lambs the sheep is carrying or the ewe’s age.
Typically, older ewes have a shorter gestation period compared to younger ewes. Furthermore, higher nutrition levels and high temperatures shorten the pregnancy period of sheep by a few days.
The gestation period gives the lamb enough time to grow and develop in its mother’s womb until they are ready to live in the outside world.
Moreover, the mother’s body will adjust to the pregnancy, prepare for delivery, and ensure the well-being and health of the babies and the mother.
A Breakdown of a Sheep’s Gestation Period
Your sheep will go through three trimesters during its gestation period, and below is an overview of each trimester.
The first trimester begins on conception day, and significant initial development happens during this period, including the development of the heartbeat.
The pregnant ewe shouldn’t come into heat 3 weeks following the breeding season. The vulva will start to enlarge 6 weeks into the pregnancy.
The fetus continues to develop during this trimester and as the pregnancy progresses. Therefore, the second trimester is an excellent period to scan the sheep to determine the number of lambs it carries and guarantee placental development.
Scanning for the number of lambs in your sheep’s womb and their health is vital since it will help determine the medical procedures and diet to consider while caring for your ewe.
This period portrays the full organ development of the lamb, with a lot of the growth occurring during the final stages. It would be best if you raised your pregnant ewe’s nutrients.
Pregnant sheep should consume about 3.5 to 4.5 pounds of dry matter, 10.5% to 11.5% crude protein, and 59% to 65% TDN.
While more ultrasounds aren’t necessary if you did one to confirm the pregnancy, you could get one if you please or if you or the vet suspect a problem with the fetus.
Gestation Calculator for Sheep
A gestation calculator allows you to calculate a pregnant sheep’s delivery date, giving you sufficient time to get ready to welcome the new addition to your flock.
This handy tool is crucial whether you are rearing sheep as pets or for agricultural purposes.
To calculate your lamb’s delivery date, enter the approximate sheep’s mating date into the calculator.
This will give you the due date and the expected week. The expected week shows the possible earliest and latest lambing date.
If you can’t use your gestation calculator for whatever reason or don’t have it, calculate your sheep’s delivery date using the formula below.
Lambing Date = Mating Date + 147
This formula will provide a rough estimate of your sheep’s lambing time. Therefore, if the mating date is December 24th, then expect little lambs to be born between May 16th to 26th.
How Many Times Can a Ewe Give Birth Annually?
How many times does a sheep lamb in a year? Traditionally, farmers lamb their ewes annually, resulting in one or multiple lambs per year.
However, the gestation period of sheep takes about 5 months, and weaning happens after 3 months, so some farmers conduct sheep breeding at short intervals (accelerated lambing).
However, accelerated lambing is controversial in the sheep farming world. Most farmers recommend avoiding weaning lambs quickly and suggest giving your ewes ample time to recover between pregnancies and ensure they are healthy and have access to proper nutrition.
Ewes reach sexual maturity at about 6 to 8 months, provided their nutritional needs are met, and they are healthy. You can use them for breeding once they are a year old and have attained 45 kilograms in weight.
A yearling ewe will likely have one lamb in its first pregnancy, with subsequent pregnancies producing twins for some sheep, while some breeds get over two lambs during every gestation.
A ewe’s most considerable number of lambs in one lambing usually happens when they are 3 to 6 years old.
Most sheep breeds come into season once every 12 months; therefore, a ewe will deliver 1 to 2 lambs yearly.
How Many Years Can A Sheep Have Lambs?
A sheep will give birth from 10-12 months all the way to 10 years. However, an ewe’s productivity is usually at it’s peak between 3- and 6-years of age. Once they get to 7 years, the ewe’s productivity begins to decrease.
How Long Do Sheep Stay Pregnant In Months? (Prolonged Gestation in Sheep)
Prolonged gestation is a pregnancy that exceeds the standard gestation period (5 months in sheep) by 3 weeks to 3 months.
The common cause of this issue is genetics. However, it can also be due to infections, iatrogenic causes, phytogenous toxins, and fetal mummification.
The fetus can be non-viable or viable depending on what causes the prolonged gestation. Fetal mummification happens commonly, but it’s not usually recorded.
A prolonged gestation related to mummification is caused by several factors. They include a retained dead fetus’ nonfunctioning HPA axis, or the HPA is malfunctioning, but the fetus is alive.
Usually, prolonged gestation in sheep happens when late pregnancy external signs like vulvar edema, development of mammary glands, and abdominal enlargement are less pronounced.
First, you must differentiate an actual prolonged gestation from a false one.
A gestation length calculation can verify prolonged gestation when artificial insemination is employed.
However, it’s easy to misdiagnose prolonged gestation if the sheep gets pregnant naturally. Other things that can cause a misdiagnosis are:
- Incorrect animal identification.
- Not recording a subsequent service which leads to miscalculating the gestation length.
- Pregnancy misdiagnosis (incorrect dating of the fetus, twins, and missing non-pregnancy)
Here’s how to approach treatment for prolonged gestation.
a) Induced Parturition
You should monitor the entire process carefully since the sheep may need help if there’s uterine inertia or abdominal wall damage. In addition, the birth canal might not be well dilated, making expulsive efforts unsuccessful.
b) Provide Supportive Care
The treatment efforts should focus on fetal delivery without causing significant injuries to the ewe. Ensure you assess the ewe’s general health and discuss the economic considerations before attempting treatment to ensure you make the best possible decisions.
Having your sheep’s gestation period in mind allows you to plan to ensure your animals’ nutritional needs are met, and the flock is in optimum condition. Moreover, you can give your little lambs the best start to life.