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Prolapses In Ewes – Some Theories

12 February 2018

Image from Nadis

Some theories on prolapse prevention – please note there is very little scientific evidence here:

  • If outside, keep multiple bearing ewes on flat fields – if they lie with hindquarters downhill, it can increase the abdominal pressure.
  • Exercise – encourage the fitness of muscles around the pelvic area by stocking appropriately and encouraging movement to troughs.
  • Calcium – calcium is required for muscle fibres, although it is stored in the bones, the ewes may not release it readily in late pregnancy. Provide calcium in the minerals. High levels of potassium and magnesium will reduce calcium uptake therefore consider the balance of minerals offered.
  • Body condition scoring – thin or fat ewes may be more prone to prolapse, condition score throughout pregnancy and manage to maximise the number that are on target (condition score 3 for lowland ewes, or 2-2.5 for upland ewes, at lambing).
  • Mid-pregnancy nutrition – ration feed to maintenance requirement (i.e. no gain or loss in condition) in mid-pregnancy with no added calcium, this may get the ewes accustomed to releasing calcium from their reserves.
  • Forage digestibility –feeds with low digestibility increase the dung volume and dry matter which may exert greater pressure on the tract. Avoid feeds with a low D-value in late pregnancy. If feeding brassicas or root crops in late pregnancy make sure that any associated conserved forage has high digestibility as the ewes tend to take more hay/silage than the crop towards the end of pregnancy.
  • Swedes – this crop seems to be associated with higher levels of prolapse for unknown reasons, if feeding to multiple bearing pregnant ewes, plan to move onto another diet in the last 4 – 5 weeks.
  • Late pregnancy nutrition – contrary to popular opinion, there is very little evidence that overfeeding in late pregnancy will increase prolapse risk. Feed well in the last 35 days for viable lambs and good ewe milk production.

A novel treatment method told to me recently: clean the prolapse and sprinkle caster sugar over it – this causes the blood vessels to shrink and the prolapse to retract.

Poppy Frater, 

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