Ewes, tups and hoggs currently have a full fleece, making it virtually impossible to get back on to their feet, if they have got on to their backs. The unsettled spring weather offers ideal conditions for ewes couping, following a bit of rain on the fleece and then sunshine on the backs usually makes them sweat under the wool and become itchy. Ways to help prevent sheep couping/getting stuck on their backs:
- Strategically place “scratching poles” in the fields – can be as simple as a few posts or you may wish to make mini goal posts so they can scratch their sides and backs.
- Have prone ewes in fields with a slope.
- Check sheep at least twice per day.
- Clip sheep as early as the weather allows.
- If shearing will be delayed evaluate treating with an ectoparasite to prevent itchiness caused by mites.
Some breeds and types are more susceptible than others e.g. wide backs and thick wool. Sheep can die from being couped due to a build up of gas in the rumen, when this builds up the lungs become crushed and the sheep can no longer breathe. Some may survive for a day on their backs, while others may only survive an hour, supervision is key.
Kirsten Williams, email@example.com
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