One of my ewes is acting a bit off. I'm pretty sure she's getting ready to lamb, and I'm being a nervous Nelly about it. I have an easy time knowing when my goats are going into labour but our sheep are so flighty it's hard figuring out what's up with them. Last year we didn't know the lambs were coming until they were already born I'm sure she'll be fine but thought I'd ask for some opinions from those more experienced.
She's not eating grain, and was laying off to the side of the rest of them yesterday morning. She can get up and seems quite normal but is subdued. She's bagged up as far as I can tell, her vulva is swollen and pink looking, and she usually has her tail elevated when she is standing. Her daughter from last year has been very protective of her, standing with her at all times. I moved them both over to a clean stall but no change yet since yesterday. She's eating hay, chewing cud and drinking water and otherwise looks bright and healthy.
Sounds like she's getting close. Probably less than a week.
Sometimes my sheep go into false labour a time or two prior to actually popping out lambs.
Or possibly, if she's especially wide she may just be having trouble with the youngins taking up too much space and not leaving enough for her lungs and rumen. If this is the case, she is probably eating smaller meals, more frequently and may not want normal grain as it can cause extra gas in the rumen. It may help to have free access baking soda to reduce the gas buildup in the rumen.
IF (and I know it's a big IF with sheep) you can get to her without stressing her or you out, you can feel the muscles above the tail. Sheep seem to relax that muscle group as they prepare for their 'hatch day' - like goats do. It's harder to feel it if they still have their wool on, and I've noticed in my flock it can be anywhere from 3 hours to a week from when they relax those muscles to when the lambs pop out.
What kind of sheep? What are you feeding her? What kind of grain(s)? What minerals do you give them? What is the Selenium like in your area? Se has a huge effect on sheep and goats especially during pregnancy and lactation. Another issue could be a mineral imbalance.
It's hard to know if there is something wrong, or this is just how she's going to be this year. Going off the grain is definitely a sign to watch her closely, but may just mean she's very close to popping out lambs. Or it could mean you opened a new bag of grain this week. Is she eating her normal feed/pasture/hay? Is she drinking? How's her waste management system?
We normally feed a 5 grain mix- barley, oat, corn wheat I think. We have a specific sheep mineral that we offer free choice, plus of course the baking soda/water I poured down her throat when she first went off grain, I was a little worried she'd had too much and was becoming acidic, but I was confident within a few hours that that wasn't the case. (She was unimpressed with that experience, no surprise there!) It did get very cold the day after I moved her to the lambing pen, so it's possible that her body decided it wasn't the right time, it's warmed up now so a much better time to lamb. Selenium is good here in Ontario, we're quite grateful for that. She's still eating hay and water without issue and seems quite happy. She's not really all that big, but that seems to be the way she carries, she appear that big last year but still spit out 3 healthy lambs.
I'll keep you posted, thanks so much for checking in with me, it's really appreciated!
Glad she's doing alright. Sounds like you're on the right track.
Please let us know how it goes.
The only other thing I would try, if I were in your shoes, would be to replace some of her grain mix with flatted barley. It's got the B vit in it which is great for stress, as well as being calmer on the rumen - at least that's what I've found. I usually (slowly, over several days) replace half to two thirds of their grain with flatted barley, especially times of weather stress (too hot, too cold, too much change). My opinion isn't shared with all my farming friends, but it works very well for my critters.
One of my sheep gurus advocates molasses water if it looks like it will be a difficult birth. Free choice of course. I haven't tried this, but it works well for her.
Great to hear about Se not being an issue where you live. The sheeps needs for Se are pretty high at this time, so it's important to keep an eye out on the signs - stiff left hind leg is how it always starts for my flock. If you haven't had Se toxicity in your flock, you could always add free choice kelp meal to your minerals (well, in a separate container beside your minerals) if you wanted to have it available for the sheep. My other sheep guru adds it to their grain if they need it or not, but personally I don't force it on them unless the individual sheep shows definite signs of needing it. Sheep are pretty smart and eat only the minerals they need, when given free choice.
Keeping fingers crossed for stress free lambing season for you.