Slow Labor in Soay Sheep? Labor seems to stall in heat of day?

Greenside Farmery

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Hi. Very new shepherdess here. About a month ago I picked up a small flock of soay sheep, 3 adult ewes, a yearling ewe, and a ewe and ram lamb. I was warned they were with a ram but all the ewes had birthed this spring.

I've been watching all the sheep gain condition (they were a bit thin),but one in particular has been getting huge. I took a look at her udders and have noticed them start to fill out over the past 2 weeks. She seems very uncomfortable during the heat of the day and a couple of days ago started standing up and sitting down, I thought she might be having contractions or the babies were maybe moving around each night as it gets cool so I started to keep a good eye on her. It seemed obvious she must be pregnant and quite far along and probably progressing to labor so I started checking on her every 3 hours or so (which now I'm afraid was a mistake if I disturbed her too much...)

She started pawing at the ground very seriously yesterday and around 11pm last night I saw a bit of red on her tail, but never any sign of mucus or a waterbag. She had labored breathing, but didn't make a sound. I wondered if the red was what remained of the waterbag or if the mucus could be red (it had a thick texture) but still no lambs.

Today she is aggressive with the other sheep, using her horns to swat the ewes that like to comfort her. Now I'm not sure if this is just a sign she is looking for privacy or if I missed that she was in labor last night, aborted or has some other issue and now could be in pain. She's nibbled at food but still doesn't have an appetite. Still haven't seen any straining (I see her shifting her weight on her feet but not throwing her head back) or heard bleating.

If it weren't for the bit of red on her tail/vulva I would be more inclined to wait and see, especially since I don't know she is past due and she isn't showing any signs of distress. I am prepared to "go in" to feel for dilation but I guess I am afraid I am causing problems being overattentive and poking and prodding this poor sheep for nothing. It has been incredibly hot here 100 F and her labor seems to stall in the day. Supposedly these sheep have always lambed without assistance so I was planning to see what happens as it cools down tonight, but now reading everything I can find I am worried I should have checked after a few hours last night.

I thought I had all winter to prepare for lambs...now I'm looking at these other ewes more closely and see another loose udder. Is there a reason sheep would lamb out of season? I understand the previous owners were keeping the ram with the flock all the time so I can see how it would happen but I thought the sheep's fertility was seasonal and related to day length. Do you think I should expect this sheep will have lambs out of season again? She is 5 year old proven ewe.
 

SheepGirl

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Soay sheep to my understanding are seasonal breeders--which means no natural summer/fall lambs. Check her temperature, she may be getting sick or just be irritated by the heat and flies.
 

Greenside Farmery

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Are there any diseases that would effect their udders? One ewe's is merely soft and dropped (looks almost like testicles honestly but double checked that :p ) but the one in labor has full udders. I haven't squeezed because I don't want to mess with the plug but this is the one thing I can be sure I am not imagining.
 

SheepGirl

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Could be mastitis. How old is the ewe? Are the lambs hers? Are they nursing off of her? Do you have a picture?
 

Greenside Farmery

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I will see if I can get a picture. Her udder is evenly filled on both sides, no discoloration, nipples are 'alert'. I do have one ewe still nursing a lamb ram, the nursing ewe's udder is maybe 20% larger if even that, they look pretty similar. The ewe in question is 5 years old. According to the previous owner she lambed very early this year and was already weaned (now I am questioning if she had really lambed or maybe lost her lamb? It looks like she has a birth stain but I am not sure how long it could last... she was unshed which I guess could indicate she didn't lamb. ) When I picked her up a month ago her udder was dry not even sagging at all. I thought mastitis was typically at weaning or rarely before birth. Can it happen any random time?
 

Greenside Farmery

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WARNING GRAPHIC DELIVERY Description.

We've been monitoring our sheep, checking her temp each day, she's been doing great. Normal temp. Eating fine. smelling fine. socializing fine (she is queen of the flock) She never developed milk. I wasn't sure what to thnk but I thought we were in the clear...not so.

A few hours ago I found her with a lamb nose sticking out, no feet. the lamb is obviously decaying and shards of bone were coming from it's face. I cupped the lamb to try to protect the ewe and search for the feet. I couldn't get more than 3 fingers, then finally 4 after very patient manipulation. My hands are very very small. I literally wear child size gloves and shoes. I tried to push the lamb back in to find more room but I cannot find the legs or hold the lamb back past a certain point.

I'm concerned she could be prolapsed. With the nose presented doesn't this mean she should be dilated enough to deliver if I could get the lamb positioned correctly? Does this sound like eds or ringwomb or more like infection? She is a proven older ewe, though she did have a sort of dilation episode when I first posted. I'm afraid with the shards I found she could already be torn up inside. On the other hand she hasn't had a fever yet but perhaps it is just a matter of time.

I've reached out to my resources and of course my main shepherd is not even in the state right now. I am waiting for a call back from the vet but intervention will probably be cost prohibitive- does anyone have experience with vet bills from dead lamb deliveries/prolapse? I still want to talk to them about any necessary treatment for the rest of the flock if they think it is infectious. Not how I was expecting my first lambing to go :(

Also still so weird she is pregnant out of season to begin with. Registered American Soay. Is difficult delivery associated with lambing out of season (possibly indicative of reproductive problems to begin with?)
 

Greenside Farmery

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ok. I can do that. I briefly imagined this moment when I first started educating myself on lambing. I wondered if I would be brave enough..but because of what I have put this poor ewe through I feel like all hesitation has vanished. The first time I took a temperature I needed someone there to help. Now I've got gloves on going in alone because I have to. I guess a good dose of humility, but also confidence, has been uncovered from this. At least there is that.

I wish I had trusted my gut that she really was pregnant. I convinced myself I was in a tizzy over nothing. A goat herder friend suggested an older ewe might have baggier udders naturally than I noticed at first so I struck that off my list of evidence and so on. I thought I was being cautious enough tracking her temp. lesson learned.

Thanks for the support everyone.
 
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