Sudden Death in a Mother Ewe

I live in California and have 7 sheep, 9 goats and 42 Guinea Hens.

After just a few years of raising the sheep and goats I've learned some and unfortunately also lost some animals.

Yesterday I found my favorite wool sheep dead in the corral. She had been eating well and not shown any signs of illness. She gave birth to a beautiful strong ram 1 month ago. Last year she gave birth to twin girls that are growing stronger by the day and look very pregnant.

What called my attention at looking at her after her death was something that looked like the beginning of a vaginal prolapse, not completely out yet.

I am wondering if this would be possible considering her lamb is already a month old. Or if it could be possible that she never delivered a second lamb. Not sure the latter would be possible, could she really have lived for a whole month if that was the case?
She had a super easy and normal delivery and the placenta came right out.

My second question is if I should bottle feed the lamb. He has been eating a lot for two weeks and drinking water like the others. Looks strong and healthy, about 20 pounds.

I will appreciate anyone's input very much.


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Apr 25, 2012
sudden death after birth
by: Anonymous

My favorite ewe died suddenly today; we noticed her water bags hanging outside her yesterday morning around 7:30. She seemed to have gone into labor, having contractions for about 2 hours, then suddenly contractions stopped and she lay down as if nothing was happening. This went on for several hours, and we finally called vets. They say that the lamb died inside and asked that we just pulled it out. The vet finally came around 5 in the afternoon and pull the lamb out with ropes. She said that she was not dilated.

Anyway, the lamb could not stand and feed on his own. we thought he would die, but he is still holding on, but his mother died suddenly. She was such a great mother, for only for a day, trying to get her baby to stand up and constantly licking her. I feel like losing a child, utterly devastated.

Called the vet and asked why? She didn't know. Can anyone help me find a possible answer. Her placenta didn't get discharged. We called the vet this afternoon, and she said not to worry that it would eventually be discharged. Could this have killed my ewe?

Mar 30, 2012
Sudden death in a mother ewe
by: Cristina

Thank you so much for your prompt response and valuable information.
The lamb is doing great and eating a lot with all the others. I will definitely give him milk to supplement his feeding.

Very appreciative,

Mar 29, 2012
She probably picked up an infection.
by: Steven F

Hi Cristina, yes, it is certainly possibly that the ewe could have had another (dead) lamb inside her but you can usually see signs of this well before your ewes’ death at one month. If a dead lamb is still in a ewe it will start to decompose and there will be some very smelly discharge coming from the ewe. It will eventually kill the ewe but her death will not be sudden as is the case with your ewe. If she dies from having a dead lamb inside her she will stink to high heaven, even before she is dead. The death of your ewe could be the result of many things that could only be discovered with an autopsy. Autopsy’s are very expensive and are not worth having done unless you suspect that there is a disease problem within your sheep.

If the clear parts of a sheep’s skin (that is the parts without wool), such as the pit under the back and front legs, have gone black, suspect blood poisoning. Often the first symptom you notice with blood poisoning is sudden death. Ewes can easily pick up infections at and after lambing, particularly if they are housed for even part of the day. If they lay on old straw or dust they have a very highly risk of picking up an infection. The best place for a ewe and lamb is on pasture.

What you see as a possible beginning of vaginal prolapsed is possibly just the result of the swelling of the body after death, which can also be a sign of blood poisoning.

Definitely feed the lamb. At one month he is not old enough to make-do on his own. Full cream powdered milk is best. At one month a feed night and morning should be fine. Make sure the milk is no more than body temperature though or it will make him crook.

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