Many shepherds crutch (or crotch) their ewes about 4 weeks or so before lambing. If you aren’t familiar with sheep terms you’re probably wondering, “What in the world are these shepherds doing to their sheep?!”
Let me begin with lambs. Newborn lambs usually have to find their dam’s udder on their own and may try to suck on any wool that is near the udder while searching. When the lamb sucks on dirty wool it can injest harmful bacteria.
When a shepherd or shearer crutches a ewe, (s)he is shearing the wool from around her udder, rear legs and bum. This is done primarily in sheep that are shorn after lambing to remove any dirty wool that the lambs may try to suck on.
Another benefit from crutching ewes is that the shepherd can more easily monitor how close each ewe is to lambing without having to handle her. The ewe’s vulva becomes increasingly swollen and pinkish-reddish as she nears her lambing date.
In the picture below you can see 2 ewes that were crutched next to one that wasn’t.
Our shearer is coming over today to crutch our ewes. That means that lambing isn’t too far away and that’s every shepherd’s favorite time of year!