THE BEHAVIOR OF SHEEP
In managing a lamb project, it’s important to understand the difference between healthy and sick lamb behaviors. It will help you identify a potential health problem. As always, the sooner a problem is identified; usually the quicker it is to resolve.
Healthy lambs are active and mildly curious. They are generally quiet unless they are lonely, scared or they happen to see someone or something. They have short naps each day after eating, but not all day. So if you see a lamb lying down at odd times of the day or for extended hours, you may have a problem. It’s important to know the difference between moaning, crying, or bleating in discomfort or in pain.
NORMAL LAMB BEHAVIORS & HEALTH
- Active, Curious, Climbing, eager to play
- Bright eyes, forward ears,
- Clear nose
- Short Naps, eager to eat and drink
Overall, they are interested in the activities around them. They are not as curious as goats…but they are close!
SIGNS OF SICKNESS
- Inactivity – Depressed, not interested, separates from the other lambs.
- Depressed – Tail down and tucked, with dull eyes, ears pulled back, shaking head.
- Stressed Face or Vocal – Grinding teeth, crinkled nose, moaning or unusual calling out,
- Bloated, kicking or biting their stomach.
- Frothy Mouth – Foam around the mouth.
- Nasal Discharge – Green or Cloudy in color.
- Fever above 103.5 or below 101.5 are abnormal temperatures
- Hunched Back, hanging head, shivering, panting or slow breathing – usually with a fever
- Straining to Urinate, diarrhea or constipation.
- Lying down all day not interested in walking around. Note: Sheep never lay stretch out like this.
- Off Feed – No interest in eating or drinking
- Pressing Forehead against a Wall – may also have foam at the mouth. Immediate help is needed.
- White Eyelids – Eyelids should be bubble gum pink, not any other color such as grey or white.
- White Gums – Gums should be bubble gum pink, not any other color such as grey or white
Take time to hang out with your lamb to discover their personality. Knowing what their “normal” is will help to identify when things are not right and need attention!
Observe & Record – First, observe, write what you see and take a picture. The more you ask and answer what you see about your animal the better it will be. Detailed information given to your adviser or vet will help them to quickly find a solution.
Contact Your Adviser – Call & send a text with pictures and your observation information. From here, the adviser can use their resources to remedy the illness. Early detection usually provides a quick recovery. If things are out of control, the vet may need to be called. Any of these signs should not to be ignored.
Take a look at the Sheep Health section for more interesting articles on keeping your lamb well! The more informed you are about the health signs, the better you will be at detecting health issues early!
- Daily – Every day, twice a day, take a few minutes to look at your lamb and make sure everything looks good! Look at their attitude, their body posture and their physical body and movements. This will help you develop your livestock management skills and to understand lamb behavior!