Sheep reproduction: sexual maturity, cycle, gestation and lambing


The ewe exhibits sexual activity seasonal and therefore produces only one litter per year. From what age can she procreate? How does its cycle, gestation and birth ? Explanations.

Sexual maturity in sheep

The ewe usually reaches its sexual maturity between 6 and 8 months. If mating is physiologically possible at this age, the female weighs only 60 to 70% of its adult weight. From its 12 months, she is fully grown, which is why most breeders expect her to have a year to start reproduction. She will then give birth to bigger lambs and resistant. As for the male, he is mature from the age of 7 to 8 months.

Heats and ovulation of the ewe

In all sheep, the reproduction period is punctuated by the seasons. We are talking about photoperiodism, which defines the relationship between the length of day and night. Naturally, the cycle is activated between the months of August and January so that the lambs are born in the spring, a period when the climate is milder and food is abundant. The ewe’s menstrual cycle lasts an average of 16 to 17 days with estrus lasting 2 to 3 days and ovulation occurring at the end of the cycle estrus. The female manifests her heat by a series of characteristic behaviors:

  • It gives off a odour peculiar indicating to the ram that it is ready to mate;
  • She often waves the tail in order to spread its scent;
  • She seeks the company of male, comes to a stop in front of him and allows him to feel it;
  • She is nervous, bleats frequently;
  • She urine often ;
  • Her vulva reddens and swells.

Mating and gestation of the sheep

Within a herd in freedom, and without human intervention, the rutting rams compete to determine which one will mate with the females. A flock of sheep can be fertilized by just one RAM. Indeed, a male aged 7 to 8 months is able to cover around thirty females and around forty for an experienced ram. If you don’t have a male, borrow him from a breeder and gather your sheep in the meadow. The projection renews itself several times to ensure the number of sperm necessary for fertilization. The period of gestation lasts between 145 and 152 days, i.e. 5 months about. If you want to be really sure that a sheep is pregnant, give it a ultrasound.

Lambing: the warning signs

Different changes physical and behavioral precede parturition, thus making it possible to be ready for the big day.

  • About 10 days before lambing, the udders sheep are hard to the touch and sometimes leak a few drops of colostrum, the first milk rich in proteins and antibodies;
  • The vulva changes, taking on a swollen appearance;
  • The vulvar lips relax and become slightly congested;
  • The last hours before lambing, the sheep seek to isolate of the herd.

Farrowing in sheep

Lambing is divided into 3 phases successive:

  • The onset of labor is a stage marked by uterine contractions and cervical dilation. This 3 to 4 hour phase is accompanied by strong agitation of the sheep, which lies down and gets up, whips its tail and bleats frequently;
  • THE’expulsion lamb is characterized by an intensification of contractions. The first pocket of waters appears at the vulva and then ruptures, releasing the fluid facilitating the passage of the fetus. During this phase of 30 minutes to 1 hour, the lamb comes out with the forelimbs first, followed by the head and the rest of the body;
  • The deliverance represents the third and final step. Uterine contractions continue for 3 to 4 hours to expel the placenta (one for each lamb).

First hours of the newborn

After birth, the ewe begins to clean the lamb with licks. the licking allows the mother to start a relationship with her little one while stimulating her breathing. If all goes well, the newborn manages to hold upright about twenty minutes after giving birth. He then instinctively goes to the udder to receive the colostrum containing the antibodies essential for his immunity. During the first hours of life, the lamb is unable to regulate its temperature and is therefore very sensitive to conditions. exterior (cold, rain, wind). So be sure to place it in a place dry and hot. Mother and lamb (s) can be brought together in a small enclosure, thus strengthening the exclusive link that will be forged between them. Before letting them cuddle, don’t forget to disinfect the umbilical cord with tincture of iodine because it is a real breeding ground for infections.