PLEASE EVERYONE TAKE NOTE!!!
It’s very common at various times of year for sheep to get stuck on their backs and not be able to get back up again. This may look amusing to some people or perhaps people just don’t understand what is actually happening, but it is often fatal if left.
Sheep can often get cast in this position, it causes them great distress as their bodies cannot function properly in this position. Just last week, while I was at work, I spotted one in the field next to the site that I was working on.
Basically if left in this position they will remain there. This may happen for several reasons, the sheep may be very fat, pregnant or the fleece maybe very long or wet. It may even be just a rut in the ground that they’ve landed in when lying down or may have been resting then tried to scratch an itch, but it certainly won’t have got itself into that position on purpose. It’s like their centre of balance goes and it leads to a slow uncomfortable death.
A sheep stuck on its back is vulnerable for a variety of reasons: Not only is it easy prey for crows, badgers or rogue dogs, but its own biology is also working against it.
So what is the reason for this? Basically to digest grass, sheep have a four-chambered stomach. The largest chamber is the rumen, where their food ferments. The fermentation process produces gases which are normally released naturally by belching etc, at 1 or 2 minute intervals.
When the sheep is the wrong way up the rumen is in the wrong place, the gas can’t escape, so then the pressure of gases and liquids build up around the esophagus, slowly suffocating the animal. At the same time there is pressure on the blood vessels depriving blood to vital areas. The combination of suffocation or a predator attack is pretty nasty, but, it’s easily avoided.
If you act quickly when you see one you can save the life of the sheep. If you are walking with a dog leave it away from the sheep if you possibly can. Take a good hold of the sheep on the back by the fleece, then slowly roll/turn/lift the sheep over, help it onto its feet. Hopefully the sheep will also try to get up, but sometimes it may just roll back, possibly several times, but keep trying, maybe just hold it in an upright sitting position. Gradually it’s systems should recover.
Once it’s up and about, watch it for a few minutes to make sure it stays on its feet, some times if you follow it slowly, making sure it walks around, it will help. Hopefully it will make a full recovery and there is no need to alert the farmer, but if it keeps falling over, let the farmer know.
So please if you are walking through the countryside and you see this, roll the sheep over and get them back on their feet as soon as possible, as you may save their life!
It surprises me how many people who live in rural areas aren’t aware of this, so please spread the message.