Sheep don’t usually need help to give birth but make sure they have a quiet, clean place to lamb. Nonetheless, keeping tabs on your pregnant ewes is essential. Here’s how to tell when a sheep is close to lambing, as they might need your assistance.
Your sheep are close to lambing if they are nesting, missing meals, passing a single or several water bags, an udder starts forming, and the teats get firm. In addition, they can star gaze and lick or curl their lips, their abdomen will begin to sink, and they feel discomfort.
When you notice these signs, start preparing to help your ewes complete lambing should they need it or get a skillful person to help.
How To Tell When A Sheep Is Close To Lambing
How can you tell when a sheep is about to give birth? Observe the following signs to know when your sheep is close to lambing.
Your pregnant ewe will retreat from the rest of the herd to create a nest where they will deliver, a process that will happen just a few hours before lambing. They will do this to ensure they are safe and comfortable before giving birth.
It’s advisable to create a pen only for the ewes to give birth as it will ensure they are comfortable and you can offer your help more efficiently during delivery. Ensure the enclosure is large and soft and provide food and water to your nesting ewes.
2. Firm Teats
Your sheep’s teats will feel firmer ten days before lambing. This is something a novice shepherd may find hard to notice because you must know how a ewe’s teats typically feel before lambing.
Therefore, anticipate that your sheep will deliver in 10 days, the latest 14 days when the teats become firm.
3. Full Udder
Your pregnant sheep will develop an udder about a month (4 weeks) before lambing, with the size growing as the ewe approaches its lambing days. Therefore, to inspect the udder and determine its size, you must reach under your sheep.
Your sheep is close to lambing if you realize the udder is larger and firm. Remember that this lambing sign manifests itself several weeks before lambing. It typically occurs 3 to 4 weeks before delivery, although it can start early in some instances.
4. Sunken Abdomen
The lamb will move into the mother’s lower abdomen one day or two before delivery. Thus, the pregnant sheep’s abdomen will appear sunken.
The lamb moves to a lower position to help the mother carry them more comfortably and ensure the mother can push out the lamb more easily during delivery. You will notice a sunken part between the sheep’s hipbones and the ribs.
5. Lack of Appetite
While your sheep consume more food during their pregnancy, they will begin skipping meals as they approach their lambing period.
This is usually an expected and normal behavior, so don’t panic when your pregnant ewes start ignoring food or skipping their meals.
A ewe may stop eating 12 hours or so before lambing in preparation for delivery, and it’s important to keep an eye on her when this happens as it’s a sign of very early labor.
In addition, loss of appetite can indicate twin lamb disease. So if the sheep continues avoiding food for several days, seek the help of a vet and offer her the correct nutrition.
Since skipping meals happens a few days or hours before lambing, you will likely notice the other lambing signs first.
6. Passing Water Bag
A pregnant ewe will pass one or many water bags just before lambing. This is a full-proof sign that your sheep is about to give birth, with delivery typically happening 30 to 60 minutes later.
This sign is equivalent to a pregnant woman’s water breaking. However, the difference is while a woman can stay even days before delivering after the water breaks, a sheep will give birth shortly after passing the water bag.
Expect heavily pregnant sheep to be uncomfortable most of the time because they have more weight to carry, and the unborn lambs occasionally kick them.
They will have difficulties moving up and down and will happily sit for hours once they find a comfortable spot.
They will get restless when they are about to deliver because of contractions. You will see them fidgeting, lying down, only to get up a few minutes later, readjust then go back down. This is how sheep act before labor.
Additionally, they may paw the ground, hurdle or push their bodies against a wall, and even walk in circles.
8. Red or Pink Vulva
Your sheep’s vulva will turn red or pink before giving birth because of a rise in the blood flow. You must check under this paddle to notice this on a fat-tailed sheep.
What Time Of Day Do Sheep Give Birth?
Sheep usually deliver lambs from 6 am to 10 am, while the second most common lambing time for sheep is 10 am to 2 pm.
Research indicates that most deliveries happen early in the afternoon or in the morning, although some sheep also give birth in the evening or at night.
In addition, feeding times also influence lambing time. For example, sheep that feed in the afternoon will likely give birth in the early hours of the afternoon or the morning.
It’s possible to influence your sheep’s lambing time and avoid those late nights. Do this by establishing a specific feeding time for your pregnant ewes early into the gestation period.
Regular mid-morning feed coupled with night-time stimuli without bright lights and noise may prompt daytime lambing.
Your sheep rely on you for water, food, shelter, and protection, but when it comes to lambing, ewes typically go through the process independently.
However, things can go wrong, so knowing when your sheep are about to give birth could save the lives of the mother and lamb. Some signs will appear several weeks before lambing, while others show up a few hours before the onset of labor. Such signals are helpful; when the time comes, you can tell when a sheep is close to lambing easily.