1ST Time Mom-Sheep In Labor,Not Dilated

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We woke up this morning and found our 4-year old ewe down, shivering with contractions? and straining. She was bred for the first time last fall to the Romney ram my daughter worked for this summer to start her wool flock. They are housed together and we didn't know she was pregnant, but fed her as if she were-making sure she got all of her extra nutrients. This is probably a stupid question but we can't find the answer in our sheep materials- How long should we expect labor to last?From reading the archives, it seems that alot of the labor occurs at night and and at least some dilation occurs. Is toxemia a possibility? We can see the lamb(s) moving and she seems comfortable and not making noise at all. She is drinking warm water and eating apple slices. Thanks for any advice.

-- Diane in So. Calif. (omalleylaw@earthlink.net), January 19, 2002


She was bred but you didn't know she was pregnant? So you wouldn't know if she was due now? Roughly 5 months ago was mid August, sound right for being bred? Get's a bit tricky she could be prolapsing and not ready to deliver! She could be ready and not dialated, sheep can suffer from a condition called ring womb, sometimes you can stretch it open more often it's a C section fix. It's more rare than a prolapse. Preg tox or ketosis is easier to check. Is her breath sweet smelling? Is she thin or fat? Feel over her back can you feel the bones over her loin? How is she laying feet under her or are her rear legs splayed out backwards? that's more for calcium deficency but it can go with Preg tox too. Can you get her up and walking? Any diet changes or stresses? Sorry for all the questions but more info gets you a better answer! A quick wild guess is a prolapse as mid August isn't really fall.

-- Ross (amulet@istar.ca), January 19, 2002.

Post this question @ www.breedersworld/sheep/com

-- paul (primrose@centex.net), January 19, 2002.

Hi- I'm back. A neighbor came over and we have been keeping the ewe warm and comfortable with warm water with molasses,protein powder mix and hot water bottles, and a floor heater. She has stopped shivering as much and now as I'm reading the toxemia info- she tries to stand up but can't, neck is weak and dilation is zilch and she is thin, it seems that she wasn't getting what she needed for the pregnancy and the ram was eating her share.I was trying to locate propylene gycol but so far nobody at the feed stores has even heard of it. I located some gylcerin at the drug store and am leaving soon to get it to give her some with water. I think this is the correct diagnosis. We obviously are novices and appreciate the advice.

-- Diane in So. Calif. (Omalleylaw@earthlink.net), January 19, 2002.

To more fully answer your questions also- she is lying down, completely horizontal. I smelled her breath and it seems sweet not rancid. She is bony also. No diet changes or stress. We put the ram and ewe together mid-August approx. and assumed nature would take its course. I am using a turkey baster to give her the warm concotion and she eagerly drinks it up. I thought about calcium deficiency also. Could I give her calcium to make sure- I read that the change may be dramatic?

-- Diane in So. Calif. (omalleylaw@earthlink.net), January 19, 2002.

Give her a Vitamin AD shot, then some calcium, sub cutaniously over several sites. 120cc's and then repeat in about 4 hours. A "B" complex shot wouldn't hurt either. The simpler the sugar the faster she can use it. Anyone near you make beer? Corn sugar (or dextrose) can be made up into a drench, I always add a bit (1/4 cup)of coffee to perk them up, I'd add some antihistamine too. Propylene glycol would be best though. What your seeing could just be normal ruminating rippling through her side, (not lambs moving)preg tox ewes will often abort as well though it doesn't sound like she's going to. You could induce labor with Lutylase, get a c section done or keep up with the feeding etc and hope she dilates soon (as in tomorrow or the next day)You'll have to lift her and reposition her as often as you can. Odds are she is going to stay down until the lambs are out (and then stay down until she can gather strength after that! You might want to find some frozen colostrum now rather than later. See if a vet will give you some dexamethasone for after she's lambed it will boost her metabolism. Don't give it to her before it will cause an abortion and Lutylase is a better drug to induce with.

-- Ross (amulet@istar.ca), January 19, 2002.

Thanks Ross for all of your help. We're grateful for your advice and we hope for the best. I'll post an update on how things turned out. Hopefully, it will be good news.

-- Diane in So. Calif (omalleylaw@earthlink.net), January 19, 2002.

OK this is going to seem a little odd, but keep her regular feed (improve the hay if you can) but cut back her grain you were making available for her by half. Getting access to her normal grain ration which she may not have been getting could cause a lot of problems. Build it up slowly to where it should be. What was her ration?

-- Ross (amulet@istar.ca), January 19, 2002.

I had a goat last year that was in labor for most of the night, when I checked her out, she wasn't dilated. I knew she was overdue and in labor, so I getly massged the cervix with my fingertip. It opened a little till I could get my fingertip into it. I kept massaging it and gardually she opened up. The kids were jammed in together sideways across the neck of the uterus, so they were not pressing against the cervix. Then there was also a dead kid in there, maybe that affected her somehow. Whatever you decide to do, I wouldn't wait too long.

-- Rebekah (daniel1@itss.net), January 19, 2002.

Ross, is there any concern over a 4 year old having her first lambs? In goats we would worry about inside fat build up over the years, decreasing the contactions. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), January 20, 2002.

Have to say we've never had a 4 year old first timer. I do know sheep are the best users of thier bodies resources and this girl has run herself down to bones for her lambs. I know that's not quite the same fatty deposits you mean but I'd guess she hasn't got any. Poor muscle tone would hinder contractions though. You have to wonder about worms too; competition at the feeding trough will sure run down the weak but it has to be heavy competition. (I've got three old girls seperated for added feeding and "protection") So long as she'll eat and is relativly alert she's not too far gone. boosting her energy levels would be my first concern. She was "shivering with contractions" meaning to me she was low on available energy, and maybe they were contractions and maybe they were spasms. How would you treat for worms Vicki?

-- Ross (amulet@istar.ca), January 20, 2002.

I gave her vitamins that we have- a multivitamin pwoder mixed with molasses, corn syrup, Benadryl and calcium tablets until the feed stores open in the morning. Gave her a vitamin B shot. Keeping her warm and checked on her a couple times during the night & gave her a warm corn syrup water to drink. Am moving her about. She tries to stand up but can't, neck a little stronger,having regular bowel movements, no diarrea. Vulva swollen, nothing protruding. Fed her some scratch(usual shared portion is a bucket which I now realize is not enough for her) and 2 alfalfa flakes 2x a day.She ate a mixture of scratch, molasses, vitamin powder, corn syrup for breakfast- hand fed and a half a flake of alfalfa. I was concerned about constipation but everything seems normal. Will see what I can find for worming at the feed store for late pregnancy-Levamisol(Tramisol) or Ivomec. I'm keeping Rebeckah's experience in mind, do you think I should take action today or can I wait until she builds up strength tomorrow?

-- Diane in So. Calif. (omalleylaw@earthlink.net), January 20, 2002.

Why not try? Sounds like she's not that far off lambing or hopelessly weak. Has she got milk or do you have colostrum, would be good reasons why not. Clean hands of coarse, and (I know this isn't going to be a popular one but) I always use PenG as a preventative measure if I have to reach inside. Your call on that one, though I'd say she has enough to deal with without risking an infection. Worming choices for late pregnancy isn't much of a worry, I'm thinking IF she has a worm problem and you kill them off fast before she's ready you'll lose her as well. I asked Vicki what she'd use because I don't get in this fix very often any more. The one I remember working was a double dose of Safeguard (Fenbendasol) split into ten doses and given over 10 days after the ewe was built up some in strength. If you can't get better advice than that leave worming off the to do list for now. A bucket of scratch is what and how much? Cut it back 50% at least. Keep up the feeding of sugar syrup etc, and remember to help her up and reposition often. My ewes are getting about 1 lb of cracked corn and whole barley 50/50 each, plus average mix grass hay free choice but about 5 lbs per day each, free choice mineral, salt, and water.

-- Ross (amulet@istar.ca), January 20, 2002.

So she is not in labor. She is just having contractions, labor in goats in laying on the ground straining to get the kids out. You could have a week of braxton hicks contractions in this age doe, and though she is four, it also will be a longer first time labor and delivery. If she is consuming hay she is fine, I would keep up with the vitamin B. saanendoah.com has the dosages needed when using B complex's instead of straight B1. Is she anemic? Gums good color? You are not going to hurt anything worming her now. Call on pipevet.com for your sheep dosages. Worms well evacuate blood if your doe has hemoncous worms, but if she is already down from them its really half dozen of one thing.............If she were bearing down with no dilation than manipulating the cervic open or C section is your last chance. I would also have oxytocin on hand from your vet, if she has weak labor once dilation occurs, it will help her expel the kids and placenta. We don't have does going down and old around here is 10 and 11. You need to rethink your management, though to late, and unadvisable to do so, you need to back of the alfalfa in late pregnancy, she needs to utilize her calcium reserves and not be using readialy absorbably calicum from the alfalfa, it also gets their rumens in better shape eating a lesser quality hay, and all the vitamin B a ruminent makes is from a functioning rumen. http://hometown.aol.com/goatlist/hypocal.htm Hopefully scratch is not chicken scratch, very low quality grains with no minerals or vitamins. Good luck with your ewe. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), January 20, 2002.

I would NOT dilate the cervix unless I was really sure she is in labor. In goats, we feel to see if the ligamants that run from the rump to the pin bones are softened so that they can't be felt. If you can feel the ligamants, she's not in labor yet. When is the earliest that she could have been bred, when the ram starting breedin gthe ewes?

-- Rebekah (daniel1@itss.net), January 20, 2002.

I don't disgree with Vicki often but feed alfalfa hay if you have it. Her rational isn't wrong but I can't say I've ever met someone keeping sheep who'd pull a down ewe off their best hay. Can't say I've ever read it as a treatment for preg tox. either, not for sheep. Sick down ewes getting wormed has never been a great situation. Any chance of getting a fecal sample checked? Checking for anemia is a good idea, but I'd check the whites of her eyes, pull the lids back, you should be able to see the veins easily. I mentioned a safeguard worming as working, I'd have to add worming sick or down sheep with Ivomec, or Tramisol, hasn't worked very well at all. I'd do nothing first it will at least take longer to do harm. Just my experience. Vicki hit on my scratch question, (don't you ever ask nice!?) My ration is protein low I know that but it's probably better than chicken feed. Of coarse I'll boost the protein in the ration for thier last month and a half of pregnancy.......with alfalfa hay. Want some good news? Safe bet your ewe has twins.

-- Ross (amulet@istar.ca), January 20, 2002.

Diane, how is she?

-- kathy h (ckhart55@earthlink.net), January 22, 2002.

Thanks to everyone who gave us advice on that sad weekend. A kind countryside reader who works at the feed store came to look at our ewe and put her out of her pain. The first thing she said when she walked in was This is not a sheep, she's a goat. Her neck was too long, her legs too long and thick hence, a goat. Well, besides the devastation from her loss(no pregnancy,worms were to blame), we were pretty upset that we couldn't even identify our own animal. We bought her from a neighbor down the street who owns a flock of sheep 4 1/2 years ago,bottlefed her and raised her. I always wanted sheep and bought her for $40 for a Mother's Day gift. We moved to this rural area 5 years ago and were populating our farm with animals. After our daughter worked for the Romney ram last summer with the intention of breeding our "ewe", another sheep breeder came to look at the "ewe" and said fine, they'll produce wooly lambs. I always thought our "ewe" was a meat breed since she produced a slight coat of wool that could be pulled off and had red fiber in her wool. I was told she was a Barbados-cross. Anyways, she didn't make it due to our lack of care, so the next day, Jan.22, the kids and I revamped the sheep pen and built sturdier shelters, feeders etc. and are in the process of reorganizing all of our animal care for each animal to make sure this doesn't happen again. We've been slowed by a week of the flu but we're not done. We're not giving up yet. Thanks again for the support-

-- Diane in So. Calif. (omalleylaw@earthlink.net), February 08, 2002.

Diane, I would doubt your new friend is right. I have had goats for 15 years and there are breeds of sheep and crosses of barbados that the ONLY way you can tell if they are sheep or goats is their tail. Sheep can not hold their tails up like goats do, they don't have the muscle in the thurl to do this. I know that there are some sheep on goatandsheeprancher at yahoo that I could convience you that they are saanen does, perhaps with a little to much width of the forehead, but none the less they look like goats! Barbado crosses here look so much like deer that folks even at the auction are passing them off as geep! vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), February 08, 2002.

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