What can I do if my ewes are prolapsing?

As we enter into the mid-season lambing period, a number of health issues are bound to arise over the coming weeks.

One particular problem – that is seen across many lambing flocks – are ewes prolapsing.

Prolapsing usually occurs in the last few weeks of pregnancy and can be attributed to a number of different factors.

These include:

  • Inadequate feed and floor space;
  • Lameness issues;
  • Large litter size;
  • High intake of feed;
  • Long periods where ewes do not have access to feed;
  • Sudden changes to the ewe’s diet;
  • Excessive body condition.

Prevention

Both management practices and genetics are at play when it comes to ewes prolapsing. Ewes that are carrying two or more lambs are under severe pressure in the last few weeks of pregnancy; therefore, they need to be managed properly.

During the last few weeks of pregnancy, ewes gradually run out of space – which is taken up by the growing foetus – and are restricted to the amount of feed they can consume.

Therefore, in order to reduce the chance of this happening, it is best to draw up a suitable feed plan for single-bearing, twin-bearing and triplet-bearing ewes.

In order to prevent ewes from prolapsing, a number of good management practices can be carried out.

These include: 

  • Feed ewes adequately: Don’t under or overfeed;
  • Treat any lame sheep;
  • Provide adequate floor and feed space;
  • Once concentrate feed levels exceed 0.5kg, split-feeding should be implemented;
  • Cull ewes that prolapse, as they often re-offend;
  • Avoid breeding replacement females from prolapsing ewes.

Treatment

If a ewe prolapses, it is important that she is identified quickly and treated as soon as possible. If she is left too long, then she is at risk of picking up an infection from dirty straw in the lambing shed or soil if she is lambing outdoors.

Most farmers will attempt to treat the ewe themselves, but in severe cases, it is best to call your local vet if the ewe requires stitching.

However, before you stitch up the ewe or put a harness on her, the open flesh – that has been pushed out by the ewe through her forcing – should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water to remove any faeces, dirt or contaminated straw.

If it is not cleaned, the chance of that ewe picking up an infection is very high. Mild cases of prolapsing can be simply re-inserted and retained using a plastic retention device, a rope or a harness.

If a ewe continues to prolapse, then the vet should be called to stitch her up and they will be able to make a call on whether or not she will need antibiotics.