Hobby farm breeders all over the world are hoping, wishing and praying their sheep and goats are bred this season. For the past few months they’ve created waitlists of future buyers ,and now it’s time to deliver (pun intended).
Goats and sheep have the same 145-day gestation cycle. Therefore, the methods of diagnosing pregnancies and timelines of development are the same.
Sheep have lots of wool this time of year, making it more difficult to see the ewes filling out.
We met with Dr. Lionel J. Dawson (BVSC., MS DACT), a professor at both Langston University and Oklahoma State University specializing in small ruminant animals. In the video above, he explains and demonstrates ways you can check your animals at home. He also teaches how and when a veterinarian can get involved.
General Pregnancy Checking Timeline:
- 0-17 days: Watch for ram chalk marks.
- 17-34 days: Change the chalk marker color. If a ewe or doe was marked the first time and not again, you can assume she is pregnant from the first cycle.
- 30-35 days: Biopryn lab tests can be administered.
- 35+ days: Ultrasounds can confirm.
- 60 + days: Doppler machines can be used.
- 90-100 days: Blockment kicking can be performed (visual demonstration in the video).
- 100-145 days: Physical signs should be present. Mammary glands will develop and, once milked, the color of the milk will show you how close the baby is. The vulva will swell and have discharge.
As Dr. Dawson checks out our animals, we learn one of our ewes is not bred. As breeders it is time to decide if we will forgo this breeding season with this ewe or intervene with medical assistance.
Dawson addresses this in the video when he speaks about using a CIDR and separating the ewe to prepare her body for another attempt at pregnancy. He cautions viewers to make sure you know without a doubt the ewe is not pregnant before administering any future attempts because it will harm the ewe and unborn baby if there is a chance she is pregnant.
In conclusion, the most successful way to track pregnancies is being certain when conception happens. It is not practical for everyone to keep 24-hour surveillance during breeding season, so chalk marking is the best way to know an attempt has been made.
Dawson explains to change chalk colors each 17 days and, if the ewe or doe is only chalked once, you can be 80 percent sure she has been bred. From then you will follow the pregnancy timeline.