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Backyard Farming: Parturition in sheep and goats

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By Susan Schoenian. December 10, 2020

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Backyard Farming: Parturition in sheep and goats

  1. 1. PARTURITION WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE BIG DAY! SUSAN SCHOENIAN Sheep & Goat Specialist University of Maryland Extension sschoen@umd.edu | sheep101.info | wormx.info
  2. 2. IT’S LAMBING & KIDDING TIME!
  3. 3. GESTATION PREGNANCY  About 5 months  138-to-159-day range (142-152)  Averages ~147 days  Length varies by breed and individual  Some influence of sex, litter size, and parity  Moderately heritable trait (18-54%).
  4. 4. WE NEED TO KNOW WHEN THE BABIES ARE DUE  Need to know when to start checking them more frequently.  Need to know when to give clostridial vaccinations.  Need to know when to make changes to feed ration, including feeding of coccidiostat.  Need to have facilities and supplies ready.
  5. 5. KNOW WHEN TO EXPECT THE FIRST BIRTHS  You might have a breeding date.  Marking harness or painted brisket  Hand mating/Artificial insemination  Observed mating  You need to write down the dates the ram/buck was in with the ewes/does.  You need to write down the date(s) of any accidental exposures.  Appearance: bagging up, deep body  Be ready 142 days after possible breeding date.
  6. 6. GESTATION CALCULATORS AND TABLES  Lots of online gestation calculators and charts  Only one app for sheep/goats (?)  They use different numbers of days for gestation.  Use a calculator that uses American date format MM/DD/YEAR  Best to get a range of due dates. American Goat Society raisingsheep.net Shepherd Magazine Flock Record Book
  7. 7. IS THERE A WAY TO MAKE THEM BIRTH DURING THE DAY? KONEFAL CALVING METHOD  Named after a Canadian rancher  Based on observations in the 1970s  Feed cows twice daily at approx. 11:30 am and 9:30 pm.  80% of cows calved between 7 am and 7 pm  Theory: feeding delays calving  Cattle studies have been variable.  Evidence with sheep is less clear  No studies with goats
  8. 8. SIGNS OF IMPENDING PARTURITION  Bagging up (highly variable) Udder filling up with milk (colostrum).  Red and swollen vulva  Vaginal discharge  Softening and disappearance of ligaments around base of tail.  Caving in of sides  Interest in newborns (“stealing”)
  9. 9. GETTING CLOSER TO PARTURITION  Engorged udder and teats  Seclusion  Misses a meal  Restlessness  Circling  Pawing at ground  Straining  Appearance of first water bag
  10. 10. PARTURITION: IT’S A HORMONE THING  Progesterone (CL) is the hormone that maintains pregnancy.  The fetus initiates the birth process by producing cortisol in response to “stress” in the womb.  Cortisol causes progesterone to be converted to estrogen.  Estrogen induces changes in uterus and cervix.  As progesterone levels fall and estrogen levels rise, prostaglandin F2α begins to act on the uterus, causing contractions and secretion of relaxin.  Relaxin softens up tough tissues, stretching the cervix to accommodate passage of the fetus(es).  Oxytocin stimulates contractions and milk let down. It may also induce maternal behavior.
  11. 11. THREE STAGES OF PARTURITION Preparatory stage Dilation of cervix Cleaning Expelling afterbirth Labor Expulsion of fetus(es)   
  12. 12. STAGE 1: PREPARATORY STAGE  Takes 3 to 6 hours More rapid in older females  Uterine contractions begin  Remains of cervical seal are passed from vulva (thick, creamy white mucous).  Cervix is fully dilated after end of first stage  Stage ends with appearance of first water bag.
  13. 13. STAGE 2 LABOR  Begins with the rupture of the first “water bag”  Uterine contractions become stronger and more frequent.  Hooves and nose of lamb/kid can be seen in the second water bag before it bursts.  Ewe/doe continues to strain, gradually expelling the lamb/kid.  Should take an hour or less from the rupture of the first water bag (can be longer with multiple births or first timers).  Additional lambs/kids are usually born within a half hour of each other.
  14. 14. NORMAL BIRTH PRESENTATION(S)  Spine upwards.  Head pointing forward and resting on legs  Forelegs forward, partially extended  Only other positions that can lead to normal birth are backwards (hind legs first) or one foreleg back. The Sheep Site Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers Not breach Backwards
  15. 15. MOST LAMBS/KIDS ARE BORN IN NORMAL POSITION AND UNASSISTED.
  16. 16. STAGE 3: CLEANING  Expulsion of afterbirth (detached placenta with cotyledons)  There are separate afterbirths for each lamb/kid.  Is usually pass immediately or by 2 to 3 hours after delivery.  Sucking stimulates uterine contractions and expulsion of afterbirth  More than 12 hours: retained placenta.  Some ewes/does will eat afterbirth.  Best to remove it (compost it).
  17. 17. 30-30-30 RULE  After starting to push, baby should be born in 30 minutes or less.  Next baby should be out in 30 minutes or less.  Babies should be up and nursing in 30 minutes or less.
  18. 18. AFTERCARE
  19. 19. IMMEDIATELY AFTER BIRTH  Don’t intervene; give nature a chance.  Don’t towel dry lambs/kids or wipe the membranes from their nose.  If mother is ignoring lamb/kid, can move it towards her head.
  20. 20. BIRTHING PENS/JUGS  Small pen for females and their offspring  Can put in before or after birthing  Facilitates bonding  Makes it easier to monitor females/offspring  Only keep in pens for a few days, unless there is problem; move to a bigger pen with other litters.  No need for pens for pasture lambing/kidding except if there is a problem (or for first time mothers).
  21. 21. LAMBING JUGS/PENS  About 5 feet square  Larger for bigger breeds and multiple births and/or if being used for birthing.  Solid or open, depending upon environment  Maximum slat spacing of 3 inches for open panels.  Can purchase or make from wood or wire panels  Portable
  22. 22. BIRTHING JUGS/PENS  Clean, well bedded  Free from drafts  Feed troughs and water out of reach of lambs/kids.  Dirt floors preferable (or plenty of bedding on concrete floors)  Clean between litters, if possible
  23. 23. WHEN TO PUT EWE/DOES IN BIRTHING PENS Before  Keeps other ewes/does from stealing each other’s babies  Keeps newborns from wandering  Helps to prevent mismothering  Prevents outside lambing/kidding  Easier to monitor After  Keeps pens cleaner and drier (healthier).  Helps to prevent ewes/does from laying on babies
  24. 24. CLIP, DIP, STRIP, AND SIP  Clip the navel to 1-1/2-inch length  Dip stub of cord in 7% tincture of iodine (or chlorhexidine, betadine)  Strip first milk from teats to remove wax plugs  See that lamb/kid gets first sip of colostrum
  25. 25. IMPORTANCE OF COLOSTRUM “FIRST MILK”  Rich in nutrition and antibodies  Need to consume as soon as possible  Ability to absorb antibodies diminishes; no absorption after 24 hours.  Ingest 10% of body weight in first 24 hours  Tube feed small or weak babies.
  26. 26. STARVATION HOW TO TELL IF LAMB/KID IS GETTING ENOUGH TO EAT HEALTHY, GETTING ENOUGH TO EAT  Full belly  Stretches when getting up  Bright  Bouncy  Always seeking udder  Wag their tails when nursing NOT ENOUGH, MAYBE STARVING  Empty belly  Cold mouth  Cry a lot  Don’t get up  Stand around  Stand hunched up  Gaunt appearance  Mother won’t let nurse
  27. 27. BROWN FAT  During the last 60 days of pregnancy, brown fat is laid down by lambs/kids while they are in the womb.  Immediately after birth and before consuming colostrum, it is their only energy source.  Lambs/kids must consume colostrum soon after birth to have a source of energy for keeping warm.
  28. 28. HEAT LAMPS  Only -- immediately after birth and until they get dry  Not necessary if lambs/kids are dry  Not necessary if lambs/kids are well fed.  Not necessary if lambs/kids are out of drafts.  Use covers instead of heat lamps (safer).  If you use heat lamps, use them safely.  Don’t overuse; lambs/kids need to be able to regulate their own body temperatures.
  29. 29. MAXIMUM SUPERVISION WITH MINIMUM INTERVENTION
  30. 30. SUSAN SCHOENIAN Sheep & Goat Specialist W. MD Res. & Educ. Center University of Maryland Extension sschoen@umd.edu sheepandgoat.com sheep101.info wormx.info

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