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Backyard Farming: Dystocia in Sheep & Goats

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University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension
December 17, 2020

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Backyard Farming: Dystocia in Sheep & Goats

  1. 1. DYSTOCIA RECOGNIZING PROBLEMS ON THE BIG DAY AND WHAT TO DO! SUSAN SCHOENIAN | SHEEP & GOAT SPECIALIST | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EXTENSION | SSCHOEN@UMD.EDU
  2. 2. DYSTOCIA Difficult birth due to a long, unassisted parturition or prolonged delivery requiring assistance.
  3. 3. CONSEQUENCES OF DYSTOCIA  Risk to health of ewe/doe  Death of ewe or doe  Risk of health to offspring  Death of offspring  Reduced maternal behavior  Mismothering – rejection of offspring  Extra work
  4. 4. CAUSES OF DYSTOCIA  Complications  Oversized fetus  Malpresentation s
  5. 5. PROBLEMS THAT CAN OCCUR BEFORE PARTURITION
  6. 6. PREGNANCY TOXEMIA (DISEASE) KETOSIS, TWIN LAMB DISEASE, LAMBING SICKNESS, FATTY LIVER DISEASE  Low blood glucose  Occurs mostly in the last six weeks of gestation to ewe/does carrying multiple fetuses.  Caused by inadequate nutrition in late gestation; insufficient energy (TDN) intake.  Anorexia and depression, neurologic signs  Differential diagnosis: milk fever Can occur at same time  Treatment depends upon stage of disease Oral dosing with propylene glycol (2x/day for 3 days) IV glucose (Vx) Induced parturition or caesarian section (Vx)
  7. 7. MILK FEVER (HYPOCALCEMIA)  Low blood calcium  Occurs mostly in late gestation but can occur after parturition, especially in dairy females.  Caused by insufficient intake of calcium in late gestation diet or excessive calcium in late gestation diet.  Similar signs as pregnancy toxemia, but much faster progression.  Usually good response with IV calcium (Vx).
  8. 8. RINGWOMB: FAILURE OF CERVIX TO DILATE  Female strains for hours with no progress Membranes may be seen protruding from vulva  Unknown cause, but genetic component has been identified, so best to cull females that survive ringwomb.  Partially dilated cervix (false ringworm) may respond to manual manipulation and smooth muscle relaxants  “False” ringworm may be caused by overzealous shepherding.  Do not attempt to pull lamb/kid through cervix that is only partially dilated.  Only treatment for “true” ringwomb is caesarian section by a veterinarian.
  9. 9. VAGINAL PROLAPSE  Ewe/doe pushes her vagina out of her vulva  Appears as a smooth red mass  Occurs last month of pregnancy  Need to replace quickly  Keep in with harness, bearing retainer, or purse string suture.  Many contributing factors, including genetics. Reason for culling.
  10. 10. ABORTION  Birth of lambs/kids before end of normal gestation period.  Dead or weak babies that die soon after birth; some premature.  Occasional abortion is normal.  Both infectious and non- infectious causes of abortion.  Beware most infectious causes of sheep/goat abortion cause abortion in women.  Always handle fetuses and afterbirth with gloves or sleeves  Pregnant women should not have contact with flock while birthing.  After abortion, isolate female and dispose of fetus(es) and afterbirth.  Seek veterinary advice
  11. 11. ASSISTING DIFFICULT BIRTHS
  12. 12. WHO AND WHEN TO ASSIST  Ewe/doe walking around with blood-stained rear end, but no sign of offspring  Ewes/does that have been attempting to lamb/kid for awhile, but only have string hanging from vulva.  Straining for more than one hour and no sign of lamb/kid at vulva  Straining for some time, with part of lamb/kid visible, but no progress  Ewe/doe is straining, water bag has burst, but an hour with no progress  Female has given up straining  Lamb/kid is being born in abnormal position 30:30:30 rule
  13. 13. SUPPLIES FOR ASSISTING WITH DIFFICULT BIRTHS  Halter  OB sleeves  Lubrication  Ropes and snares  Bucket  Towels  Essential drugs
  14. 14. HOW TO ASSIST WITH DELIVERIES  Catch and confine female  Restrain female  Washing female  Wash hands and arms with soap  Wear OB sleeves short fingernails, no rings  Apply copious lubricant  Check for dilation of cervix  Determine position of offspring  Need to know how to differentiate front and rear legs  Correct position  Apply traction
  15. 15. NORMAL POSITION  Diving position Head resting on legs Both fore legs extended  Most presentations are normal.  Assistance not required unless over sized fetus, small pelvic opening, or weak/tired ewe/doe.
  16. 16. KNOW HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE FRONT AND BACK LEGS Fore legs Hind legs
  17. 17. BACKWARDS: ALSO, NORMAL  Backwards - hind legs first - spine up  Most ewes/does can deliver lambs/kids that are backwards in the birth canal.  There is some risk of suffocation if lambs/kids get stuck halfway, due to umbilical cord being crushed against pelvis.  Pull lamb/kid out quickly if assisting birth  Never attempt to turn lamb/kid around.
  18. 18. ONE OR BOTH LEGS BACK  If there is enough room, draw each leg forward by cupping hoof with your hand.  If there isn’t enough room, push the head back far enough to allow legs to be drawn forward.
  19. 19. HEAD STICKING OUT OF VULVA  If head and one leg are sticking out, it may be possible to deliver offspring with only one leg forward.  If not, head will need returned to uterus so fore legs can be extended.  If just the head is sticking out, it will need to be returned to the uterus, so fore legs can be extended.  If head has been outside of vulva for some time, it can become very swollen: gross with bulging eyes and swollen tongue (can survive for long time).  Head must be washed before it is returned to uterus.  Can be challenging to return swollen head to uterus.
  20. 20. HEAD TURNED BACK  One or more legs out No sign of the head Head is twisted back and facing wrong way  Find head (Attach rope to head behind ears)  Return legs to uterus (attach ropes to legs) Need to straighten out head so that it is resting on legs Can be difficult to do, patience is needed  Don’t use jaw as anchor point; use eye sockets, if you have to
  21. 21. BREECH: JUST THE TAIL  Ewe/doe is in labor but making no progress. Only tail showing Lamb/kid is coming rear first  Do not try to turn the lamb/kid around Gently push back into uterus Bring hind feet upwards and forward by cupping hoof Deliver lamb/kid backwards Pull downward and quickly
  22. 22. MULTIPLES  All sorts of entanglements possible  Task is to determine which legs belong to which offspring and which offspring to deliver first.  Sometimes simple; sometimes not  Use ropes to identify heads and limbs  May need to push one back to deliver another
  23. 23. OVERSIZED FETUS  Large fetus, small pelvic area Sticking points are head, shoulders, and hips  Heavier birth weights Large single births Larger and more muscular sires Overfeeding during late gestation  Easiest cases may require only gentle pull Plenty of OB lubricant Rotation and changing angle can help Worst case scenarios: caesarian section
  24. 24. DEAD AND DEFORMED FETUSES  First indication of dead lamb/kid is smell.  Brownish membranes indicate death.  May be able to deliver same as live lambs/kids, with sufficient lubrication.  May need veterinary assistance.  Antibiotic treatment for ewe/doe.
  25. 25. REVIVING DISTRESSED LAMBS/KIDS  Clear mucous from nose  Put straw in nostrils to initiate breathing  Twisting ear may stimulate breathing  Hold lamb/kid by its back legs with head down to clear fluids from mouth and nose.  Swing lamb/kid to clear fluids in nose and throat (?)  Position upright in “frog position”  Stimulation, vigorous rubbing  Blow air into lungs Image: Sez the Vet
  26. 26. BIGGEST MISTAKES ASSISTING BIRTHS  Intervening too quickly  Intervening too much  Not knowing when to get help  Waiting too long to intervene  Failure to check for more babies  Not using enough lubrication  Not being clean  Not being careful  Damaging uterus
  27. 27. GENERAL ADVICE  Clean  Gentle  Patient  Decisive  Know when to ask for help
  28. 28. PROBLEMS THAT CAN OCCUR AFTER PARTURITION
  29. 29. RETAINED PLACENTA (AFTERBIRTH)  Usually passed within 2-3 hours of parturition  Retained placenta (<12 hours) is usually associated with other problems.  Many factors responsible  Do not forcibly pull placenta out (gentle tug okay)  Long-acting antibiotics is usually all that’s needed.  Some veterinarians advocate no treatment if female is eating/not sick.  Other treatments might include oxytocin, prostaglandin, and dexamethasone (Vx).
  30. 30. UTERINE PROLAPSE  Occurs when the whole of the womb is turned inside out and pushed through the birth canal.  Occurs immediately after parturition or 12 to 48 hours later.  Usually result of difficult birth.  Need to replace quickly and keep from coming out again.  A uterine prolapse is best replaced by a veterinarian under appropriate epidural anesthesia.  Protect uterus until vet gets there.  Follow up supportive care.
  31. 31. LITTLE OR NO MILK  Many causes, including stress, nutrition, and disease  Make sure teats aren’t plugged.  Check bellies of babies.  Check for disease: mastitis, OPP, CAE  A shot of oxytocin (Rx) may help with milk let down (not milk quantity).  Need to make sure lambs/kids get colostrum in first 12-18 hours.  Cull ewe/doe
  32. 32. RESOURCES  Manual of Lambing Techniques (free download) https://www.ablamb.ca/images/documents/resources/www.alkottob.com-Manual-of-Lambing-  Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers (free download) https://www.thesheepsite.com/publications/1/sheepfarmers/  Detecting, Diagnosing, and Treating Lamb Problems (and other Laura Lawson Books) http://www.lawsonsheepskins.com/sheepcarebookslawson.html
  33. 33. SUSAN SCHOENIAN Sheep & Goat Specialist University of Maryland sschoen@umd.edu sheep101.info sheepandgoat.com wormx.info

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