First-time lambing ewes need all the hormone feed back loops and events of labour and birth to go right in order to set them up for both short- and long-term mothering success. But maiden ewes are also more likely to take more time to birth, which could possibly lead to more interventions, which can then interrupt the critical bonding period. If that’s the case, how do we, as sheep farmers, help?
Dr. Cathy Dwyer, animal behaviour specialist with Scotland’s Rural College, stresses that the key word in this discussion is time. There are instances where you’re going to want to step in and help a ewe, Dwyer says, but with first-time lambings we may need to be more patient, so long as the ewe is not in distress.
“It’s very easy to feel like (a) ewe’s been lambing for hours,” Dwyer says, so recording the time that labour events start happening can be helpful to remind us to be patient. Lambs and ewes can cope quite well in labour for quite some time so long as the ewe is not straining or the lamb is obviously poorly positioned in the birth canal.
Dwyer closes with a discussion on one of her favourite quotes about raising sheep — that your herd is a representation of the sum-total of your management decisions. Which begs the question, what are your herd goals and are you achieving them? Fodder for thought, below.