Pregnant Sheep questions

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Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby SWFarm » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:52 pm

Hello, new here! I have just acquired 5 sheep. 3 Finn x Tunis ewes, a yearling and 2 lambs. 1 is an Icelandic yearling ewe and a yearling Icelandic ram. I have a herd of dairy goats, but these are my first sheep, though I did take a sheep production class in college. I believe all of these ewes are bred and due in Feb/March. The Finn x ewes were in a flock of mixed rams & ewes, and the previous owner of the Icelandics (his only 2) said he saw breeding activity in mid-September. The Finn x owner said she normally starts getting lambs in February, though sometimes a few will go as early as January. They are all together with the Icelandic ram, so they will be bred if they haven't already. I plan to have kidding/lambing pens in my quonset set up for everyone to have their babies in.

One question I had was, are the signs of lambing the same as the signs of kidding? Especially, do sheep lose their tail ligaments about 12 hours from lambing? I have used this as my primary sign to know when to put the goats in a kidding pen and watch closely. The other thing I have been wondering about is Bo-Se shots. I have always given this to the goats before breeding, then again before kidding, since I live in a selenium deficient area. But, the label says not to give it to pregnant sheep. What I've been reading is that it can cause abortion in sheep. So, is a loose mineral with selenium in it good enough for them? I would rather not have any lambing problems (wouldn't everyone?). I have also read that some people do still give it to their ewes when pregnant, so if you have, what has been your experience?

Also, the Finn x sheep are pretty thin. I dewormed them when they got home and trimmed their hooves. They have pasture,but it has been freezing here a lot, so not great pasture. The goats have excellent alfalfa hay, and I've been giving the sheep mostly the stuff the goats pull out then won't eat. I've also been feeding a little bit of grain to get the sheep to like me :wink: which is a custom mix I do of whole oats, whole barley, SBM, BOSS, shredded beet pulp, and a little bit of rolled corn (spoiled goats?). I can mix it in any way I want because I mix it myself, and can add, take away, or change amounts of ingredients if I wish. They also get pumpkins, which I got for free-several truckloads. The sheep devour anything I give them, unlike the goats who are picky (do I have weird animals?). Is there any other recommendation to help them put on some weight?
Nancy Boling
Sweetwater Farm
Finn x Tunis and Icelandic sheep, Dairy Goats, and Llamas
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby Brock » Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:45 pm

I look for the following when doing pregnancy checks:

1) Body condition- a pregnant ewe in the last month of gestation will either carry her lambs to either side as she walks away or develops what I call a low gut by her hind legs. Definitely a different look than a "fat" ewe.
2) Bag check. I identify bred ewes from the truck by simply looking at udder development.
3) Vulva- pink and swolen. Also seen from the truck.

When I've identified who's bred, I look for the following once in the barn:

1) Sloped hips like you mentioned. I can't correlate that to hours left before lambing though. Seems to me to be a function of pregnancy.
2) Pink vulva that is thinning (This is what I go by really).
3) Off feed (not reliable).
4) Bag fills with colostrum and teats distend ~ 24 hours before labor.
5) Ears down, nose curled in the air, grinding teeth (now your cooking).
6) Finds a corner in the barn and paws at the ground (hour or two away).
7) Mucus plug (you're there).

Hope that helps. We had a short stint with pygmy goats and all I can say is goats are weird.........no offense of course, but it was different than lambing for sure.



Brock
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby SWFarm » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:11 pm

Brock wrote: We had a short stint with pygmy goats

Brock


This explains everything...pygmies are a strange bunch. :D

Thank you for the information. What do you mean when you say the vulva is thinning? The slit is getting thinner, there is less swelling, something else?

My sheep are very fuzzy, I don't know that I could tell the first thing you mentioned. If my girls were bred and due in February (all but one for the first time), would those signs already be present? Most of my goats don't bag up or have a pink swollen vulva until 1-2 months before kidding (and one of my goats doesn't have much of a noticeable udder (though she is still making colostrum/milk, just not a lot at first) until a few days AFTER kidding-crazy lady!).

So far I am liking the sheep, I don't know if I like them better than the goats, but they are different. They don't like to be pet and loved on like the goats, but at the same time they keep a respectful distance. My goats will run you over, especially if there is food involved. The sheep come for food, but they don't knock you over for it! Are sheep more annoying if they've been bottle-raised?
Nancy Boling
Sweetwater Farm
Finn x Tunis and Icelandic sheep, Dairy Goats, and Llamas
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby Brock » Tue Nov 15, 2011 10:45 pm

It's way too early yet......Since you don't know exactly when they were bred, I'd start paying an extra 5 minutes a day looking at them ~30-45 days before you think they might lamb. Bag development and body size will start to happen then. As far as the vulva goes, it goes from being pink, swolen, and puckered to pink and elongated shortly before birth.........it's just something you'll pick up on when you start seeing it.....It's really the behavior that keys you in when they are that close.

You'll quickly see that sheep act calm with the primary caretaker (ie feed bucket). Most of my ewes won't stand there to be petted but they don't bolt out the door when I feed. I like that relationship. I don't keep bottle babies anymore but there is a bond that develops and they followed my kids around the yard like puppies. Don't know if that continues post weaning. My wife and kids raise the replacement ewe lambs over the winter and they are much tamer than my ewes. Think it boils down to the time you put in it, how you act toward them, etc.

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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby Carol K » Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:30 am

Being a newbie also, I was interested in the tail ligaments. That happens with cattle so was wondering about sheep, with all that wool I wonder if it notices though?

Carol K
Carol K. Little Valley NY. New to sheep. Raising grass fed Katahdins since 2011 and Dorpers since 2012.
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby SWFarm » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:36 pm

I felt one of their tails as I was unloading them at home, and you can feel the ligaments. With the goats and the sheep, they are in a V going down from the attachment of the tail. They are rock hard and pencil size at first. In the goats, they get softer and softer, kind of squishy, then one day, you cannot find them at all because they have dropped into the pelvis, and at that point you know they are 12 or less hours from kidding. So, on my late pregnant goats, I check tails twice a day.

Okay, so my other couple questions were, what should I do for my thin Finn x Tunis sheep? How much grain should they get per day, since they are only in the first part of their pregnancy, but are pretty skinny? I felt their bodies as they were unloading too, and going by my inexperienced self, they are probably a BCS of 1-1.5. Is there a weight tape for sheep, and if so, how accurate is it with furballs?

The last question was about the Bo-Se, and does anyone have experience giving it to pregnant sheep? Or should is a loose mineral with selenium good enough?
Nancy Boling
Sweetwater Farm
Finn x Tunis and Icelandic sheep, Dairy Goats, and Llamas
SWFarm
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby denice » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:04 pm

My sheep are pretty ok with me walking through them but I believe they would protest to me poking around on their tails twice a day. I would imagine unless they are 'pets' this will cause much more stress than it is worth. Don't worry, you will be able to tell when they are close. I usually can't pin it down super close until the ewe's behavior changes then it is usally within a few hours to a day. Since some ewes tails are cropped short I am not sure how accurate the tail thing would be.

Since they are now wormed and being fed just relax and enjoy them. For the most part they do well with lambs on their own. The behavior is similar enough to goats you will know if they need assistance.

Denice
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby dhibbeln » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:15 pm

hmmn,

those ewes are going to really hunger in the last 4 weeks of gestation and then for the next 8 weeks as they are milking. do some research into the nutrional requirements during those times.

you might need to adjust what and how much your feeding.

also mineral and trace mineral consumption is critical. what the mom eats gets passed on the child.

Dave
NE of Albany, NY & 1,543 ft from VT
Dall Hollow Farm
Texas Dalls & they're NOT goats!
home of "stotting" lambs
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Re: Pregnant Sheep questions

Postby kris » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:33 pm

I give my ewes a shot of Selenium & Vit. E, a shot of Vit A & D, and use Tas Vax vaccine, 1 month before breeding and about 1 month before lambing. I been doing this for 9 years now and it seems to be a recipe that works for my girls. I also have trace mineral available to them along with a block of cobalt salt.

Good luck with your new flock.
Kris
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