Improving Reproduction in Sheep

With lambing season on the forefront of every shepherds mind, I think that it is timely to have some discussion revolving around the reproductive efficiency of our flocks. Nationally, the average lambing rate is slightly over 100%. For those operating small flocks, we both know that those types of numbers won’t cut it. So, what can we do as managers and producers to improve the reproductive efficiency of our flocks? Supported by the Let’s Grow Program sponsored by the American Sheep Industry, Dr. Paul Kenyon from Massey University discusses tools for producers to use to improve the lambing season. In this video, Dr. Kenyon reviews topics such as nutrition management, ewe and ram care, weight and condition score targets that should be met, and much more. I know you have time this winter while observing your flock anxiously awaiting the next set of lambs. Put your earbuds in to have a quick lesson while you keep shepherding away.

Are You Ready for Birthing Season?

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, College of Veterinary Medicine
(Previously published online with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, College of Veterinary Medicine: January 2, 2019)

You’ve worked hard to get your livestock bred and maintain a normal production cycle. It’s almost time for that amazing event: giving birth (or, in veterinary terminology, “parturition”).

It’s understandable to be a little nervous about birthing season. After all, a year’s worth of work is at risk.

The good news is that the process works as it was intended to about 90% – 95% of the time.

Remember the ’30 minute rule’: Cows should make significant progress towards delivery every 30 minutes. Sheep and goats should deliver within 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes to correct a problem if the labor is not progressing normally. Call a veterinarian sooner rather than later if the problem cannot be corrected quickly!

For the 5% – 10% of animals that Continue reading

Lambing and Kidding Emergencies

Haley Zynda, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

Dystocia, weak lambs and kids, hypothermia (if you have the pleasure of lambing in January and February like we do in the Midwest), and agalactia all classify as lambing and kidding emergencies in my book and probably yours, too. With lambing season perhaps already started for some and right around the corner for others, it’s time to prepare for the “lamb-pede” soon to hit your barns.

Dystocia is the issue producers are most likely concerned about. If unattended, dystocia can result in dead lambs, and in the worst cases, dead ewes. Dystocia can present in a variety of ways, especially if the mother is carrying twins like we so hope she does! My counterpart in Delaware County, Jacci Smith, has a great video of demonstrations on how to handle different dystocia presentations, and can be found on YouTube titled “Lambing and Kidding Simulators” on the OSU Extension Delaware County page. Jacci created Continue reading

Prolapses in Sheep

Isabel Richards, Veterinary Science – South Africa and owner/operator of Gibraltar Farm
(Previously published with the Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK): December 12, 2021)

There are three structures that can prolapse and be visible under a ewe’s tail: vagina, uterus, and rectum. Vaginal and uterine prolapses can negatively affect ewes around lambing and will be discussed here.

Vaginal Prolapse
A vaginal prolapse occurs when a ewe’s vagina protrudes out of her vulva. Most prolapses occur in the last few days or weeks of pregnancy. It usually starts with the ewe laying down and you just see a small little ball of red tissue protruding from the vulva that retracts when she stands up. This is the ideal time to start treatment and prevent it from progressing to a much more serious situation.

If left untreated, more of the vagina will start protruding. This tissue is not supposed to be exposed to the elements and with time it becomes dried out, contaminated with bedding and fecal matter and infection can set in. This is uncomfortable for the ewe and she will start straining, pushing more and more tissue out and making the situation worse. Often Continue reading

Lactation Preparations for Small Ruminants

With many producers in the state of Ohio 4-8 weeks away from the beginning of their lambing or kidding seasons, we thought it would be timely to discuss the process of evaluating sound udders and how to prepare your stock for lactation. In Webinar #1 of the 2021 OSU Small Ruminant Webinar Series, Brady Campbell presented on the importance of colostrum and milk production. This ten minute segment focuses on preparing and managing females for the highly demanding time of lactation including nutrition and health management to ensure lambs and kids are off to the best start possible.

Tools to Manage Ewes During Gestation

Rob Zelinsky, M.S., Hubbard Feeds Companion Animal Team
(Previously published online: Hubbard Sheep Solutions)

(Image Source: The Fence Post)

Ultrasound Pregnancy Diagnosis


  • Sell open ewes during inflated cull ewe markets
  • Economical feeding (less over and under feeding)
  • Identify ewes with multiple births and feed accordingly


  • Cost
  • Extra ewe handling during pregnancy

Shearing Continue reading

Optimizing Reproductive Efficiency in Sheep Production with Strategic Nutritional Management

This hour long webinar seems to be quite timely both due to the fact that fall breeding is well under way across the nation as well as many here in the Midwest are fully emerged in fall lambing. Nutrition is key when discussing the benefits and hardships of livestock production. For those that will be joining us for Ohio Sheep Day this Saturday, October 2, I encourage you to take some time to listen to Dr. Richard Ehrhardt as he discusses how to maximize nutritional management to improve reproductive efficiency. At Ohio Sheep Day, we will be discussing alternative forage and feeding options that can be implemented on farm to achieve these needs. We look forward to seeing you then!

Improving Newborn Lamb Survival

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published with Penn State Extension: March 17, 2016)

Livestock market prices are very good right now and I can’t think of a better time to be more concerned about newborn lamb survival.

Even if we are talking about only five lambs, at 75 pounds per lamb and at least $2.00 a pound market value, we are looking at an overall value of $750. This can be even more when we factor in the value of breeding stock. So, let’s look at a few ways we can ensure that lambs survive past birth.

Nutrition plays a critical role in the survivability of lambs both prior to and during lambing. Sufficient nutrient levels are needed for fetal development. This includes growth of the lamb, fat reserves at birth, and vigor once that lamb is born. Nutrition also has an effect on the quality and quantity of colostrum and we all know the importance of lambs receiving colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Ewes should have adequate amounts of feed, feed that provides the correct amount of protein and energy, and a good mineral supplement to keep them healthy and allow them to produce healthy lambs that are adequate in size. Continue reading