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How to Tell if a Sheep is Pregnant

How to Tell if a Sheep is Pregnant

The earliest sign of a pregnant ewe is that the ewe will not come into heat when it is supposed to. This will happen 3 weeks after the ewe is pregnant.

Other early signs include the enlargement of the vulva, as well as doing the ram test – introducing the ram into the ewe pen to see which ewes are pregnant.

In the early days of pregnancy, it will be slightly harder to detect a pregnant sheep. You might have to watch for subtle signs of pregnancy, which will get more and more obvious as the ewe is ready to lamb.

You can also try pressing your hands on the abdomen to see if you can feel out the lambs.

Early Signs of Pregnancy

At the very start of the ewe’s pregnancy, it might be a bit more difficult to detect it. At this stage, you’d have to be slightly more experienced with these matters to detect the pregnancy.

But thanks to some tried and tested methods, you’ll be able to spot the pregnancy even though it might not seem obvious yet. These methods can prove to be highly effective.

1. The Ewe Will Not Go Into Heat

One of the most obvious signs of early pregnancy is that your ewe will not go into heat when it is supposed to.

Sheep usually go into heat 17 days after mating with a male. This is when she’ll be ready to mate again with another male if the sheep is not pregnant. However, if the sheep are pregnant, then this won’t happen, and your ewe will not breed again.

If you notice that your ewe hasn’t mated 17 days after the first mating, then it’s probably because she is pregnant.

2. The “Ram” Test

So you might be wondering, what is the ram test?

It’s the act of introducing a ram that is ready to mate to a pen full of ewes. The ram will pick out ewes that are not pregnant and mate with them while ignoring the ones that are pregnant. This will help you find out which ewes are pregnant and which are not.

This works because the ram is able to find out which ewe is ready to receive mating by detecting the ewe’s pheromone levels.

A sheep that has pheromones is the right mating partner, while the sheep that will not be useful to the ram, so he will avoid them and focus on the ones that have pheromones.

This is a very common test among sheep breeders that will help them find out which sheep are pregnant. And this sign also complements the first one since the sheep that aren’t ready to breed will not go into heat.

3. Feeling Out the Lambs

Another possible technique that sheep breeders use is using their hands to detect the shape of lambs early on inside the ewe. You might be able to find out if the ewe is carrying any lambs with this method, although it’s not always accurate and it requires some experience to get it right.

If you really want to make sure, then you should consult a professional who should be able to tell you whether your ewe is pregnant or not using this method.

4. Physical Changes

The earliest physical changes will include the rear looking puffier and the vulva will also appear enlarged in the early weeks of pregnancy.

These are also subtle signs that you might be able to spot in a pregnant ewe, but you should also look for other signs in combination to fully determine if your sheep is pregnant.

Later Signs of Pregnancy

The earlier signs of pregnancy will be a bit more subtle, but as the pregnancy continues, it will be much easier for you to spot the signs that a sheep is close to lambing.

Here are some most common signs of late pregnancy in sheep.

1. Enlarged Abdomen

If your ewe has an enlarged abdomen, then this will be a sure sign that it is pregnant. If you’ve noticed other differences in behavior in your ewe and you spot that it has an enlarged abdomen, then you should assume that it’s pregnant.

This will be clearly visible in the later stages of the pregnancy and it will be obvious for you to spot.

2. Colostrum Production, Hard Teats

There are also two other signals that you should observe that will tell you if your ewe is pregnant: one is colostrum production. This is essentially producing yellow and thick milk with antibodies that are meant to protect the lambs and provide them with a stronger immune system.

The other symptom will be harder teats. You’ll be able to feel that the teats will be much harder at first, so you’ll be able to spot them quite quickly. Also, look for other signals and include this one to make completely sure your ewe is pregnant.

3. Changes in Behavior

You should also be able to spot any differences in the behavior of your sheep if they’re pregnant. This will be quite obvious, too.

For instance, you’ll see that the ewe will retreat and nest once it’s ready to deliver, so it will go on its own and deliver its lambs in peace. That’s why you might want to keep it in a separate pen for lambing.

Also, you’ll see that your ewe will not eat a day before lambing. It will refuse to eat and skip a few meals, so you’ll see this change in behavior. The sheep will also get slower as they’ll move around with more difficulty than usual because they have an extra burden they need to carry during their pregnancy.

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Final Thoughts

When sheep are pregnant, there will be several changes to their behavior and their appearance along the way. Some might be more obvious than others, especially the early signs, which might be a bit more difficult to spot. But make sure that you notice these signs so you’ll be completely sure your sheep are pregnant.

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