We at Henderson Equine Clinic are very excited to announce we are now treating sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas in addition to our regular equine clients. It is almost spring time, and with spring time comes lambing, kidding, and criating! Are you ready?
Spring with expectant animals brings lots of questions, planning, and excitement. So I thought I would answer a few questions you might have about your ewe, doe, or female.
Question #1: Is she pregnant?
Answer: Did you have her ultrasounded post breeding? If so, you know if she is pregnant, and depending on timing and species, you may have an estimate of how many she is going to have. If you didn’t ultrasound, did you draw blood for a species specific pregnancy test? (Llama’s and alpaca’s can have blood progesterone levels tested to diagnose pregnancy, though it is less definitive than ultrasound). Or least specific, did you test breed her if she’s a camelid, or has she been seen to be showing signs of heat or been rebred?
Question #2: When is she due?
Answer: Breeding dates can generally estimate due date within 5-7 days.
Sheep Gestation: approx. 147 days
Goat Gestation: approx. 148-152 days
Alpaca Gestation: approx. 335-345 days
Llama Gestation: approx. 350 days
Question #3: What should I expect when she starts lambing/kidding/criating? (How long should it take?)
Sheep and Goats: Approximately 10 days before she lambs, the teats begin to feel firm and full of colostrum. Between then and lambing the lips of the vulva slacken and become slightly swollen. In the last hours before lambing, many ewes or does will separate from the flock. As the uterine contractions start, a thick creamy white mucous, the remains of the cervical seal, is passed from the vulva and contractions of the uterus push the lamb or kid into the cervix, stimulating dilation. At this time the ewe or doe is uneasy, getting up and down, switching her tail and bleating frequently. There may be some straining. This is Stage 1 and can take 3 - 4 hours.
As the uterine contractions become stronger and more frequent, the lamb and amniotic sac are pushed into the dilated cervix. The sac bursts, releasing a watery fluid through the vulva. As the ewe continues to strain, the second sac is pushed through the vulva and ruptures, to release a thicker fluid. The hooves and nose of the lamb can often be seen in the second sac before it bursts. The ewe gradually expels the lamb, forefeet first, followed by the head. Once the head, forefeet and shoulders pass, final delivery generally rapid. This is Stage 2 and should take 1 hour or less (30-40 minutes after first seeing feet). A ewe lambing for the first time or with a multiple birth may take a bit longer.
The placenta serves no further function once the lamb has been born, and is passed 2 to 3 hours after delivery has finished. Nothing will be passed until after the first lamb has been born. In multiple births, there may be separate afterbirths for each lamb.
Alpacas and Llamas:
The cervix relaxes and uterine contractions propel the fetus into the birth canal. This stage may last 2-6 hours (or longer in first pregnancies). Signs include restlessness, discomfort, increased humming, increased defecation and urination, segregation from the herd and decreased appetite. Many alpacas show no obvious signs of being in first stage labor.
Uterine contractions increase in frequency to aid expulsion of the fetus. The female may lie down and rise up several times; there is abdominal straining; the amniotic sac (or water bag) may appear at the vulva and rupture. (Note: much less fluid is released than in other species). Both forelimbs appear together at the vulva and the head emerges either above or below the legs. Once the head appears, delivery is usually completed quickly but the female may rest before pushing out the shoulders. Most females deliver in the standing position. Stage 2 is usually completed in 30-45 minutes.
The placenta or afterbirth is usually expelled within 2 hours of birth. Alpacas do not eat the afterbirth nor lick their offspring.
Question #4: When should I call my vet?
Answer: Veterinary attention is required if ...
• Stage 1 exceeds 4-5 hours without signs of abdominal contractions.
• Stage 2 extends beyond 30 minutes without any signs of progression.
• Stage 3, if the afterbirth has not been expelled within 6-8 hours.
Now that you have brand new lambs, kids, or crias, enjoy them and watch them grow!