Why worry about sheep breeding or sheep pregnancy or birth? Nature does all this extremely well ... the point is that you don't have all the time nature has.
° Breeding means more animals
° Adequate breeding, at the right time and with appropriate mates will give you more and better animals.
Robert Davis' flock is known as one of the best in the area.
His opinion is: "Breeding and lambing are most of all a matter of selecting the right mates at the right time and keeping appropriate records."
Turn the page to see what Mr. Davis has done to keep useful records.
(Taken from Mr. Davis' records.)
We will learn how to use these records throughout this chapter.
FERTILITY is the possibility of reproducing.
With adequate nutrition, sheep are fertile throughout the year. A healthy, well fed ewe can give birth up to 6 or more lambs in two years.
Climate, diseases, environmental stresses, management and nutrition have an impact on fertility.
Poor fertility occurs
(a) with sickness
(b) as a consequence of malnutrition or undernutrition.
According to this, is it true that:
There is nothing you can do about your sheep's fertility.
We hope you agree with us.
The ewe's fertility has to do with good management.
This means that you can:
° feed sheep adequately
° provide clean and fresh water
° protect the flock from dogs or other stressing circumstances
° prevent diseases
° keep animals in a clean and protected place.
SELECTION: The first step towards productive sheep raising is selection.
° Well fed and healthy parents will have healthy offsprings.
° This is true for the ewe as well as for the ram.
If it is possible, select parents with a successful, prolific history. If you have just a few ewes, it is a good practice to take ewes to a STUD CENTER. Mates from different herds tend to have good lambs.
CARE OF SHEEP BEFORE BREEDING: There are some important things to consider before breeding.
Allow breeding to occur at the right time and between the mates you selected.
In order to do this you should: Keep rams and ewes apart until breeding.
|Rams must be raised apart from 4 months old.|
Give extra food to ewes, specially during the last month before breeding. Feed rams well all the time.
Keep a record of dates and breeding conditions.
This will allow you to keep the process under control.
In Appendix II you will find record sheets for your use.
Take one out. We will learn now how to use them.
Fill the record sheet with the name of the ewe and the ram you selected.
Add the date of birth of the ewe.
At this stage of the process, this would be Greedy!s record:
Keep your record sheet; we will use it afterwards.
There are four important things to take care of before breeding.
BEST TIME FOR BREEDING: in order to decide when is the best time for breeding, you should:
To breed a ewe, last parturition date is important.
It is convenient to wait 3 months since the ewe had its last parturition.
Give the ewe time to regain strength.
HEAT CYCLE AND BREEDING
As you know, ewes come into heat every 17 days and stay in heat 30 to 36 hours.
Main signs of heat are:
- Swollen, inflamed and reddened vulva.
- Watery mucous discharge from the vulva.
- Nervousness and loss of appetite.
- Mounting other animals and standing to be mounted.
- If a ram is in an adjoining pen, ewe will move as close to the ram as possible.
- Tail wagging.
The best time for breeding is in the middle of the heat period.
- A ewe showing heat in the morning should be bred in the afternoon.
- A ewe showing heat in the evening should be bred the next morning.
If you are not sure that a ewe is in heat, make a test by taking her to a ram. They will both become interested.
In breeding ewes, 1 service is usually enough for pregnancy.
In ewes bred for the first time, it is better to have 2 services.
Do not breed too young, too old or undernourished ewes.
A ewe comes into first heat at 6 to 7 months of age, or sometimes earlier, but she should not be bred at this time.
This is the reason why ewes and rams must be raised apart as from 4 months old onwards.
Experts say that less that 7 to 8 months is too young an age to be bred, because abortion or stillbirth may occur.
This is a very difficult subject. There is no rule for age. The proper time for first breeding depends upon both age and condition.
Mrs. Nelson has a very well fed 8-month old ewe. This ewe has good weight and her owner offers her very good pastures.
In a case like this, 8 months can be a good first breeding age.
Many experts agree that 10 to 12 months can be a good first breeding age, provided the ewes have good feeding before and during pregnancy, if not, they should not be bred.
If a ewe comes into heat, this does not mean she is ready for becoming a mother.
These are the risks if you breed her too soon:
- You will stunt her growth.
- She will have small lambs and little milk.
- You will reduce her reproductive life span.
- She may have trouble giving birth.
A good practice is to breed a young ewe when she has reached about 80% of her grown weight.*
* For example, if grown ewes in your area weigh around 80 pounds, breed young ewes when they weigh 60 to 70 pounds.
Complete according to what you have studied.
Keeping Breeding Records
Take the record sheet you have been working with.
What are the important things to keep a record of? Consider:
|1.||Age:||A six or seven year old ewe should be sold.|
|2.||Date of breeding:||this will allow you to calculate the expected lambing day and to take some special precautions in the case of a pregnant ewe.|
We will come back to this record sheet later.
PREGNANCY AND GESTATION
After breeding, the ewe can be returned to the herd.
SIGNS OF PREGNANCY:
3 weeks later: the ewe does not come into heat.
6 weeks later: the vulva shows an enlargement.
12 weeks later: the abdomen enlarges, she looks calm and walks slowly.
All this timing is approximate. There are no fixed rules.
If a ewe comes into heat again, breed her again. Have her well fed and free of diseases.
Try to pay attention to the signs of pregnancy. In this way you will be able to help your sheep.
Fortunately, abortion is not very common in sheep.
CARE OF THE PREGNANT EWE:
A pregnant ewe needs peace, special care and good feeding. You can help:
- Protect the ewe against dog attacks and difficult situations, because running and frights are not good for her.
- Keep her well fed.
- To eliminate external parasites do it gently.
- Do not use some drugs for treatment of internal parasites. Read the label and follow the directions carefully.
- One week before lambing she should sleep alone in a small pen.
CALCULATING LAMBING DATE:
To calculate the expected day of birth, add 146 days to the date of service.
These 146 days are called gestation period.*
Let us have a look at Mr. Davis' records.
Greedy's service was on 10 December.
So we have:
21 days in December 146 days 31 days in January 28 days in February 31 days in March 30 days in April and 5 days in May.
* Gestation ranges from 144 to 151 days and the average is 146 days
So, Greedy's record sheet would be as follows:.
- You will be prepared to help your ewe.
- You will know when to give her extra feed.
Assume service day was 4 October. Which is the expected lambing day?
Write it in your own record sheet.
Expected date of birth is 27 February
October 27 days 146 days November 30 days December 31 days January 31 days
February 27 days
If it is your ewe's first pregnancy, the gestation period may be slightly shorter.
SIGNS OF BIRTH:
Some Days Before Birth
- The udder swells and may turn red.
- The vulva swells and becomes red.
- There will be a hollow on either side of the tail.
- There will be a discharge for some days.
The Same Day
- The ewe cries and acts like she's "talking".
- The ewe becomes very restless.
- Water sack appears and ruptures.
- The ewe looks for a lonely clean place.
Lambs should be born within an hour after labor begins.
HOW TO HELP THE EWE TO GIVE BIRTH:
- Separate the ewe from the herd.
- Place the ewe in a lonely place with clean bedding.
Have with you:
- A carton or box for lambs
- Leave the ewe alone.
If labor is too difficult, and only in extreme cases, look, for some help. If the ewe becomes weak, call a stockman or a veterinarian.
Picture number 1 shows lamb in normal position.
Picture 2, 3 and 4 show difficult positions
Difficult cases need a veterinarian or stockman. If you cannot find any help and you see the case is desperate, wash your hands thoroughly, use a clean cloth, and try to help accommodate the lamb's position.
Here you see a person pulling the lamb gently towards the ewe's hocks.
Anyway, LET EWE ALONE AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.
CARE OF THE EWE AFTER BIRTH
- Offer her water: she has been several hours without water.
- If the afterbirth does not come away itself after 12 hours, help to take it out (see next page).
- Keep ewe away from the lamb's special bedding until all discharge has stopped,
Do not let her eat the afterbirth because it may be very harmful.
ALL the afterbirth should be out of the ewe in less than 12 hours after the parturition.
Pay attention to this number: less than 12 hours. Otherwise, she can be seriously-infected.
If the afterbirth does not come out naturally, try to take it out by pulling softly and carefully. Before trying that, wash your hands thoroughly and use a clean cloth or gloves
Complete: a) Afterbirth should be out before hours.
b) The ewe eat the afterbirth.
Answers: a) Afterbirth should be out before 12 hours.
b) The ewe must not eat the afterbirth.
If afterbirth does not come out, infection can be serious and the ewe can die.
The ewe may try to eat the afterbirth, but to let her do it is a mistake, although many stockmen think otherwise.
In Case of Abortion
- Treat the ewe the same as in birth.
- Burn the dead lamb, afterbirth and bedding. Clean the stall thoroughly.
- Isolate the ewe until all discharge has stopped. Have her checked for disease.
- The same recommendations related with afterbirth apply: it should be out within 12 hours, and the ewe must not eat it.
CARE OF LAMBS
NEW BORN LAMBS:
Immediately after birth:
- Wipe the nose and mouth clean of mucous.
- If rattling breathing occurs put the lamb upside down* and try to stimulate breathing by rubbing it.
- If it appears lifeless, swing it by its hind legs.
- Treat the navel cord with iodine.
* Use a cloth. New born lambs are slippery,
In case of twins or triplets, put the first born ones in a box away from the ewe.
A ewe kicks during birth and she may kill a lamb.
A ewe receives its lambs and cleans them, unless another one is on the way. If so, finish drying with a towel.
Iodine is important
Iodine prevents many infections and diseases. Use it.
The navel cord is like a tube by which bacteria can enter the new lamb's body. Thus:
Treat the navel cord with iodine.
Complete the following sentences:
GENERAL CARE AFTER BIRTH
- The first milk is called colostrum.
- Colostrum should be taken within a few hours after birth.
- Colostrum is extremely good for the lambs because:
- it is rich in vitamins, fats and carbohydrates.
- it prevents diseases.
- it cleans the digestive tract.
- it is very nourishing.
During the first 10 days it is not wise to separate the ewes from lambs.
Lambs should nurse as frequently as they wish for the first 10 days.
REMEMBER TO COMPLETE YOUR RECORD SHEET WITH DATE OF BIRTH AND NUMBER OF LAMBSCARE OF LAMBS
- Provide housing for the lambs until they are two months old.
- Leave tender and rich forage in their pens. This prevents death losses and hastens growth.
- If ewes and lambs are separated during the day and the lambs begin to shiver: they are hungry.
- At 4 weeks lambs begin to graze.
- In 8 weeks half of their diet is grass or legumes. Give them forage rich in proteins.
- At 3 months of age, lambs can live without their mother.
- At 3 1/2 months of age, separate them from their mother. This is called weaning.
- Weaning is a good time to:
- Control parasites
- Vaccinate them
- Decide if you will keep them or sell them.
- When 4 months old, ewe and ram lambs must be separated.
Remember to complete your record sheet with number of lambs alive after 3 months.
If death losses are high, something is wrong. May we suggest that you review how you took care of the lambs.
Choose the correct word or sentence:
1) According to what you have studied, first breeding age should be at
2) As soon as you notice signs of heat
|A||breed the ewe|
|B||do not breed the ewe, wait for the right time|
3) For calculating birth date we must
|A||add 146 days to service day|
|B||add 5 ½ months to service day|
4) During labor it is better to
|A||leave the ewe alone|
|B||help the ewe|
5) After birth it is good to treat the lamb's navel cord with
6) The afterbirth must be out in less than
7) The new born lamb should nurse
|A||twice a day|
|B||whenever it wishes|
8) Colostrum is important because it is
|B||a nourishing milk that prevents diseases|
9) If lambs shiver it means that they are
10) Best time for weaning is
|A||at 2 1/2 months of age|
|B||at 3 1/2 months of age|
11) From 4 months onwards ewes and rams should be raised
12) Records are important to
|A||produce better lambs|
|B||know the number of lambs you have|