Lambing is always an exciting time on the farm. The sound of newborn lambs bleating for their mothers is just wonderful. It can sometimes be stressful for the anxious flock-master or flock-mistress as they await the birth of the year’s lambs and hope that there are no difficulties.
The ewe’s body usually starts preparing for lambing a couple weeks to a month before the birth of her lambs. Her vulva will swell and get darker pink as her due date approaches. During this time her udder will also fill with colostrum – the lamb’s thick, antibody-rich, first milk. Her udder will get larger, but a day or so before she delivers her lambs her teats will appear full and the skin on her udder will feel tight.
You can see the changes in Erin’s udder before lambing in the collage below. She gave birth the day after the last photo in the collage was taken.
Closer to lambing, the ewes sides “hollow out” as the lamb drops into birthing position. As active labor approaches she will usually become restless and separate herself from the flock. She will begin to paw at the ground to make the area comfortable for her.
These photos were taken over a couple years and are a few of out ewes in labor. Click on each photo to see it enlarged.
Stage 1 The water sac emerges (figure 1)…
Stage 9 The first lamb searches for the teat and begins to suckle as the ewe cleans her second lamb. Nursing triggers the release of the placenta (see arrows).
Stage 10 The placenta(s) is (are) delivered. This usually happens within a couple hours of lambing, but can take 24 hours or longer. It it important NEVER to pull on the placenta if it is hanging from the ewe. If it is still attached to the uterus and is pulled the ewe could hemorrhage and bleed to death.