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Birth presentations in lambs

Written by Cathryn

Another aide mémoire ahead of this year's lambing. It doesn't cover every eventuality, if in doubt go and get help!

Avoid intervening unless absolutely necessary!

Normal – nose and tips of two front feet.

One leg back – depending on size of lamb and ewe either push lamb back in and try to get both feet forward or pull leg and put other hand behind the lambs ears and pull downwards. There is a risk that the ribs will break and puncture the lamb’s lungs.

Head only - usually impossible to push head back in, instead slide hand in beside head and locate front leg, both legs if possible. Hook finger behind "elbow" and ease leg forward into more normal delivery position. Deliver as for one leg back above.

Front legs showing but head is back - this will require a loop and someone with experience (and strength and six hands)!

Backwards – if the two back feet are showing, pull one out then the other and pull lamb out downwards. Beware! Check this isn’t two front feet with the head back or twins trying to come at once!

Tail showing - push lamb back through pelvis and get back legs out, ease them out one at a time or together (this depends on hand and pelvis size). Then, do as above!

Nothing showing despite ewe in labour for several hours and in obvious discomfort – this is usually a backward presentation or the back is arched in the pelvis. It can be head and legs back and trying to push a shoulder out. Quite often this means the lamb is dead in utero and is not assisting in presenting itself correctly. Get help!

Chinese puzzle – triplets and sometimes twins can get in a terrible tangle. Lots of legs and no idea who’s who! Patience and calm but the ewe will need help to lamb.

Do not persist, if in doubt, take to vet!

Lambs can die if the amniotic sack doesn’t burst as they are born and the ewe is inexperienced and licks the wrong end. Worth watching for as you have to act very quickly to clear the nose and mouth.