Limiting the risk of unplanned and late pregnancies in sheep

Sheep family

Looking out for the following can help you reduce unplanned pregnancies

  • Drafting out male lambs from ewe lambs as the flock gets closer to sexual maturity (puberty). The age of puberty is influenced by breed, genetics, size (weight), nutrition, and season of birth. Ewe lambs can reach puberty as early as five months of age.  
  • It is recommended to draft any non-replacement ewe hoggets you plan to sale once they meet liveweights which increase their chances of conception (35–40kg).
  • When shearing ewe lamb flocks ask shearers to mark any male lambs that come across the board. 
  • Keep a look out for cryptorchid lambs in your flock. 

Signs that you have a cryptorchid in your flock could be a lamb displaying the following behaviours or characteristics:   

  • Mounting/riding of other stock. 
  • Flehmen Response – curling back the upper lip. Inhaling deeply-head held high. 
  • Aggressive behaviour – if more than one in the flock they will tend to fight. 
  • Pizzle stains – urine-stained wool found on bellies from around the pizzle area.

Knowing the pregnancy status of your flock

We are aware that not everyone scans for pregnancy in their flocks, however if you are planning on sending sheep to sale or slaughter it is recommended you do a full assessment of your stock to ensure you don’t end up with any surprises during transit.  

  • If you are unsure consider scanning cull ewes (can be determined as early as 35 days post-breeding until lambing). 
  • Keep a look out for the typical signs of an impending lambing.  

These can include but not limited to any of the following: 

  • Teats and udder feel firm as they fill with milk. 
  • Lips of the vulva slacken and become slightly swollen. 
  • Ewe is separating herself from the rest of the flock. 
  • Abdominal tightness – (you can feel by palpating either side of their belly. When you palpate, you will find that a pregnant ewe’s belly is firmer than an unbred ewe’s belly).

Find out more

For more information, please refer to:

  1. MPI Fit for Transport Guidelines  
  2. Download the fit for transport app – Google Play 
  3. Download the fit for transport app – Itunes