News & Advice

Stages of Calving and Lambing

Aug 1, 2018 | Beef cattle, Dry stock, Dry stock animal health & welfare, Sheep

At this time of the year with calving and lambing it is good to review the stages of calving and lambing so we know what is normal, and then can decide what is abnormal! While most animals will give birth normally without any trouble or need for assistance, understanding the process can help you understand when it may be necessary to lend a helping hand.

Stage one

Cervical relaxation

4 to 24 hours prior to calving or lambing but up to 72 hours in heifers.
Signs include:

  • Separation from the herd/flock
  • Tail swishing
  • Mucoid discharge from vulva (white in sheep)
  • Arched back, lifted tail

Stage two

Uterine contractions and expulsion of calf/lamb

Takes 30 minutes to 2 hours, up to 3 in heifers

  • Waters break, water bag shows first, then amnion around the feet.
  • Calf/lamb should be born within an hour of the bag showing
  • Normal presentation is both front feet first, with the nose following behind
  • Ewes may take longer in this stage, due to multiples, but each one should not take longer than an hour.

Stage three

Expulsion of the afterbirth within 12-24 hours post calving/lambing.

If this isn’t properly expulsed then retained membranes can cause life threatening infections and reduced pregnancy rates in the future.

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