Laboring Ewe

A place to exchange ideas, stories, and to solve problems related to breeding the flock and delivering lambs.

Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Deb-WI » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:32 pm

If her cervix isn't dilating because of reasons already mentioned here, there's a slight possibility she has a flipped or torsion of the uterus.
I can't imagine her straining this long and based on what the vet has suggested, I'd have spoken with someone different a long time ago.
Many years back, I had a large ewe with a uterine torsion, we thought it might have been from the way she had been handled at shearing.
When examining her, there was kind of a dead end and could not feel any lambs, it was really different.

We tried physically correcting with no success and then a c-section. The vet delivered healthy triplets, ewe was fine. Unbelievably, the next day she expelled another lamb (dead), I couldn't believe it was missed !

Hopefully by now, the problem with your ewe, has been positively resolved,

Deb
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Carolina » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:57 pm

UPDATE:

Well, I followed Dave's advice and didn't stint on any remedy. She got drench 3x daily, calcium gluconate SQ and dextrose SQ 2x daily, banamine and LA-200 1x daily. She was much perkier yesterday despite her pin cushion status, came out of her shed, drank of her own accord, browsed hay before retreating to her corner, and still having episodes that appeared to be labor. No membranes or mucous plug. Last checked on her at 11:00 pm last night.

Rechecked her at 0400 this am, active labor with fluid-filled membranes trailing. Again she appeared to be pushing w/o result. This time, manual exam revealed one leg forward, a nose, a butt, and more all competing to exit. I tried to re-arrange, but couldn't seem to get all the parts to one lamb in order. Called the vet.

Vet arrived at 0630; stuck his arm in her and said, "Wow. What a mess." After much manipulation, we pulled a ewe lamb, smallish, who looked pretty lifeless, took two or three gasping breaths, then stopped, despite further attempts to revive her. Next out, a huge dead ram lamb. Third out a huge dead ewe lamb.

Gave the ewe an oxytocin shot to help further expel membranes, more antibiotic and banamine. She is out now with her co-horts, eating hay and drinking. So I guess I am thankful that it appears she will survive.

So...do you all still think this was ringwomb?
Do you think she will breed back?
If she lives, it it even worth trying to keep her, given that she has "tripleted" two years in a row, the first time unassisted with three live lambs?

I very much appreciate everyone's comments and the help.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:02 am

It is pretty strange that she was pushing for a couple days before the water bag came out and things started happening... Very strange. Unless, you just made her wait until the ring womb resolved itself... I didn't even know that it would. And that was just too late. I had two simultaneous cases of ring womb in one afternoon. They had both presented water bags and 3-4 hours later they were still out on pasture, not a strain, nothing! My vet came right over and he was going to let me pull my cases under his supervision but when we knew what it was, he worked them and delivered 2 sets of trips in 15 minutes each. He could only get a finger or two in to start. Technically, I suppose yours was ringwomb with no showing of anything at all and mine was just a failure to dilate. But I know why mine didn't dilate and so I kept them. I don't anticipate any issues this year. They had both previously lambed without problems.

Your vet is really lousy. If he knows anything about sheep, he should know that they do things quickly. How could the guy sleep, I wonder?
Definitely find someone else to help you.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Bill Fosher » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:55 am

This is a tough question. Did the lambs die because the ewe failed to dilate, or did the ewe fail to dilate because the lambs were dead/dying? Or is there some other cause?

I am not going to second-guess a veterinarian who was talking to the owner of the sheep and eventually saw it, but I will say that I think earlier intervention might have saved that one weak lamb.

If it is ringwomb, you might be able to solve it with a better mineral mixture. I believe there's a link between low Se and ringwomb.

On the other hand, it may not be ringwomb at all. Part of what dilates the cervix is the pressure of a properly-aligned lamb getting ready to enter the birth canal. The fact that the lambs were tangled and mis-presented could be the only reason that she didn't dilate. In which case, if you teach yourself how to dilate a cervix from the outside you might be able to pull live lambs if it ever happens again.

As to whether to retain this ewe, that's going to be a judgment call on your part. There is a chance that her cervix is scarred due to the manipulation, although that seems less likely if it was dilated far enough for water bags to pass. There's also a possibility that she'll have the same problem again, since we don't really know what caused it this time. On the other hand, there's a chance that she'll be just fine. It's your call as to whether you think she's worth the risk or not.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Carolina » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:29 am

Dear Bill et al-

As I said before, I remain confounded. I don't think I was misinterpreting her initial signs of labor. She was up, pawing at the bedding, would circle around, plop down, lean over, support herself with her off-side leg, push and grunt, head up in the air, upper lip curling. It looked pretty similar to all my other girls over the last 3 years. As she got tired, she mostly stopped doing that and just became more miserable and sick, which I feel really bad about.

When I palpated her, I could feel her cervix centrally, sweep my hand all around it into the recesses, and I thought that I felt the central dimple of the os, which seemed tightly closed, I couldn't really seem to get a finger in there, which made me afraid that I might cause more damage. But now I wonder if I wasn't feeling her structures correctly. All I know is that it wasn't anything like yesterday morning, when I stuck my hand in, she was dilated, and I knew I had a tangle. I will, of course, always wondered if all the lambs were viable initially, and I blew it by not having her have a c-section first thing.

As for my vet, he's a good enough guy, but his bread and butter is dairy, and I don't think he's that invested in backyard shepards. I probably should have been more insistent when I initially called him. And I probably should think about finding someone who is more geared to sheep.

I suppose if we are going to keep doing this (we were planning to grow the flock to 10 ewes), I will have to think about the cash flow of occasional big ticket vet interventions like a c-section vs. dead lambs/ewe morbidity or mortality.

Thank you everyone for the input. I have learned so much and really appreciate being here!
Carolina
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby MRPittman » Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:40 am

Sorry to hear of the loss of lambs, at least it sounds like your ewe should survive. It is hard to not think of what if's in these situations, but in the end, we have to live with what happened, and hopefully learn a bit along the way. Anyone who has critters endures this.

Couple years ago we had a pet ewe, yes a pet, of my daughters experience pregnancy toxemia. Always felt a c-section may have saved her, but couldn't get vet interested. We understood the cost involved, should have been our choice. But during calving season, guess vets thought a cow more important than a sheep.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Deb-WI » Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:44 am

Carolina,

Sorry to hear about the dead lambs.

How is the ewe doing today ?
She may be very sore from the trauma of pulling the lambs and if so, Banamine can help.
Did the vet suggest keeping her on antibiotics for a few days ? Make sure she is consuming plenty of water and continues eating well.
If the lambs had been dead for a while, there may have been discolored fluids/discharge and unpleasant odor.
Although, one might have been dead before she went into labor, I would think they all were lost, because of the delay of getting them out.

Since she had triplets before and and the problem with her not dilating is most likely due to the lambs not being in position to push against the cervix, I would give her another year and see how it goes.
As Bill also mentioned, Selenium deficiency can be a contributing factor for the ewe not dilating.

You might consider posting your location, as someone here can possibly suggest a nearby veterinarian, familiar with treating sheep.

Deb
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Island Shepherd » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:30 am

Carolina,

Some afterthoughts:

If you could not find the opening you did the right thing to not get rough by poking around for it as is sometimes done by shepherds who get too keen. Once you get them bleeding there is a high likelihood that they will die. If it was true ringwomb you may not have been able to manipulate it enough to deliver triplets w/o rupturing the membranes. On a seconded lambing ewe it should have been fairly easy to detect unless as you say you were in the wrong spot or it was tightly closed as it the case of ringwomb.

The culling decision for me would come down to; was this just a cervix that was not dilating or is this true ringwomb? Ringwomb was long thought to be caused by nutritional factors ranging from lack of calcium to moldy hay. Research has now shown that it is a genetic problem that results when *the ewe is carrying homozygous lamb(s) produced by a carrier ewe that is heterozygous and bred to a carrier ram that is heterozygous.

Where she lambed without problems the first time I do not know if that is an indicator or not. If you and your vet feel this was a one off event then perhaps another chance is in order. If true ringwomb, then culling is called for. Here is a *link to the research on the topic. http://www.archive.org/details/occurrenceetiolo720kerr You have a small flock yet but the more knowledge you have the better you are equipped to deal with these situations when they occur in the future as your flock grows.

Good luck,

Dave

* Referenced from information originally posted by Dr. Mark in March 2011
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:42 pm

I think the loss here is in not knowing if the ewe could be dilated when she was first in labor. Had the vet come when called and tried, we would know a lot more than we do now. But I suppose, that said, it is going to have to be the jumble presentation as cause and that she eventually dilated when one got a little ahead of the others. I don't know why the lambs died except possible tangled, broken and squashed cords in utero.

As for mine, that showed water bags, it was metabolic mayhem that lambing and ewes suffered from many different symptoms and troubles that year and with no labor at all, I think it was the calcium problem in these two which is very fixable in a year's time.

I wouldn't cull her. The odds of that happening again cannot be very great.

As to the others, it rare on our place that a ewe dies on her own. If the vet and I have exhausted our ability to help without improvement, we shoot. Everyone should be prepared to shoot and deliver their own lambs within 4-5 weeks of lambing. My vet told me that I can even wait until the legs have stopped kicking to do it. He doesn't but I can. He said he had a customer video tape himself delivering a calf from a dead cow and the guy literally sawed for a half hour and finally delivered a live calf. You don't have a half hour in sheep but you have time. And then you milk the dead ewe if possible. I guess I saw the whole procedure on my best, favorite ewe 6 weeks to lambing and he pulled out a bag of triplets and when they were spread on the ground, I said, "Geez, they are even cute with no wool." I will say that in nervousness, we would shoot about 3 times in the head just to be sure they aren't feeling anything. :) I have been through a lot, I know the time to shoot (which can be the tough part with favorite ewes) but that is the first thing I would do anywhere close to lambing, cut them open.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Muleflock » Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:33 pm

Or.........if it's a great ewe with valuable lambs, it can be cut open and stitched back up. Anesthetic/analgesics recommended. Even if it costs $120, with good lamb prices it can pencil out. In the case of this ewe, if it was in labor on day one, and had a cervix of 3 or less, a check 4 hours later is vital if one is to give the ewe and it's lambs the best opportunity for survival. Of course, if the lambs died and labor was induced by the detaching placenta, that would be a whole different story.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:49 am

Yeah, you're right! I would have absolutely no problem paying for a c-section. It would be even better education than a quick necropsy in the snow and a heck of a lot happier occasion, something else to do besides sigh. Yeah, I think if a ewe were close up and dying, it would be safer to do it with a vet c-section. You are right. And that is what I would do. Although that way does cost a lot more...
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Janet McNally » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:14 am

She definitely sounds like she is in labor, and if she has not produced a lamb after 2 -4 hours from the very start of labor, I will do an exam to check the status. If she is actively pushing and not dialated this *could* be ringwomb (a failure to dialate due to a hormonal abnormality) but it also could be due to a mal presented lamb, such as a lamb coming sideways which winds up crossways on the pelvi opening and does not enter the birth canal..which is more common in larger litters. If nothing is pushing on the cervix then it will not open.

There is a limited time from when the hormones kick in for the cervix to dialate, after which it will begin to close again. If this ewe clearly is ready to lamb (bagged up tight, and has been in active labor) and cannot be dialated, then a c section is in order.

103.4 is NOT a fever. I agree the vet is clueless. This ewe needs knowledgeable veterinary attention.

Janet
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Phil Crome » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:53 am

Good Morning All,

What a bum deal this is. I think the question of what caused her to finally dilate is central here, but the world will never know, unfortunately.

I think that the chorus finding fault with the vet here may be a little over the top. I admit that as the husband of a vet and frequent listener to the vet side of these conversations, my perspective is different than most, but what I see in this narrative is a series of telephone calls, resulting in a trip to a feed store, a trip to the clinic for dispensed meds, and finally a farm call when the owner was in a mess. Usually, this course is followed because the owner wants advice and guidance, but does not want to pay a vet for their expertise and diagnostic skills. I don't see that the vet in this case refused service, refused communication, nothing- in fact, he or she went above and beyond by supplying meds for an animal they had not seen based on the owner's description. Absent the owner saying "I want you to come see this ewe," what more should the vet have done?

I'm not finding fault. Economic decisions about veterinary care are part of the territory when it comes to animal agriculture. It just seems to me that all too often particularly sheep people do everything they can to avoid having a vet involved in their affairs, then involve said vet after it's too late, then badmouth the vet's abilities whenever and wherever possible, then wonder why their vet is not anxious to help them with their problems going forward.

I've often told my wife that the working title of her memoirs should be "You Should Have Called Me Sooner."

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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Looking4ewes » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:18 am

Point taken, Phil. My sharp words were meant to prompt action and communicate the immediacy of the situation. My apologies.
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Re: Laboring Ewe

Postby Janet McNally » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:22 am

Sorry if my comments are out of sequence, I did not see that there was a whole second page to this scenario.

Phil, as to the vet's culpability here I took this quote:
Carolina wrote: Called the vet, woke him up (oops!), and his take is "sometimes this happens; check her in the morning."
to be a refusal to come and examine the ewe when a timely exam and c section might have changed the outcome. Although your comment about not knowing the exact conversation is duly noted. It just seems to me the vet should have pushed to be examining that ewe right then.

Saffronsheepranch, I was taught by the Iowa state large animal vet, that a lamb is not likely to survive if it is more than 10 days early. Something to do with the development of the lungs and ability to breath. I don't think I would be doing c sections on ewes, nor can I think of a reason to be doing a c section on a ewe that is more than ten days away from her due date. As to killing the ewe and then delivering the lambs, I also have doubts one can take 30 minutes as you suggested. As soon as the ewe's heart stops pumping that lamb is going to need to breath.

Carolina, consider the cost of the vet call as an educational expense. It will be difficult to justify on an economic basis, but hopefully there will be something you can learn from it that will help you with the next case.

Janet
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