Changes in Sheep Behavior before Lambing

Beatrice E. Waters, John McDonagh, Georgios Tzimiropoulos, Kimberley R. Slinger, Zoë J. Huggett, Matt J. Bell

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to assess the duration and frequency of behavioral observations of pregnant ewes as they approached lambing. An understanding of behavioral changes before birth may provide opportunities for enhanced visual monitoring at this critical stage in the animal’s life. Behavioral observations for 17 ewes in late pregnancy were recorded during two separate time periods, which were 4 to 6 weeks before lambing and before giving birth. It was normal farm procedure for the sheep to come indoors for 6 weeks of close monitoring before lambing. The behaviors of standing, lying, walking, shuffling and contraction behaviors were recorded for each animal during both time periods. Over both time periods, the ewes spent a large proportion of their time either lying (0.40) or standing (0.42), with a higher frequency of standing (0.40) and shuffling (0.28) bouts than other behaviors. In the time period before giving birth, the frequency of lying and contraction bouts increased and the standing and walking bouts decreased, with a higher frequency of walking bouts in ewes that had an assisted lambing. The monitoring of behavioral patterns, such as lying and contractions, could be used as an alert to the progress of parturition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere715
JournalAgriculture (Switzerland)
Volume11
Issue number8
Early online date29 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • behavior
  • birth
  • management
  • observations
  • sheep

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