How you can save a sheep’s life

Photo of a sheep lying on its side and unable to right itself

...but it's important to raise the BAA!

Sheep don't sleep on their backs, so if you happen to see one in this position you should move fast. That sheep is close to death.

When you're training a sheepdog you can sometimes be surprised by a sheep's agility, but they aren't designed to lie on their backs, and they're not good at righting themselves.

A sheep with a heavy, possibly wet, fleece, or that is heavily pregnant or fat (resulting in a broad, flat back) is most at risk of becoming stuck if it rolls over.

It may have been resting, or it may have tried to scratch an itch, but it certainly won't have got itself into that position on purpose.

A sheep stuck on its back is vulnerable for a variety of reasons: not only is it easy prey for crows or badgers, but its own biology is against it.

In order to digest grass, sheep (and cows) have a four-chambered stomach. The largest chamber is the rumen, where the fibrous food ferments. Fermentation produces gas, and when the sheep is the wrong way up the gas can't escape.

The gas builds up, and causes pressure on the sheep's lungs until it simply can't breathe anymore.

The scenario of a combination of suffocation and predator attack is pretty grim, but it's easy to avoid. Keep aware for an upturned sheep when you're out and about, and act quickly if you see one. DO leave your dog at a distance from the sheep if you possibly can, and DON'T worry about taking hold of a good handful of fleece to get the sheep turned over. Whatever evolutionary advantages sheep might have, they don't have convenient handles!

Watch the video above, to find out how easy it is to rescue a sheep which is stranded on its back, then share this page so that others will see how to do it too.

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Between a Flock and a Barred-Place!

This sheep has got herself trapped. It looks as though the bars of the fence go through the sheep, but they're only squeezing the wool

"LOOK BACK" at our favourite posts! (No 1 - 23 Feb 2014)

They say sheep spend their entire lives thinking of ways to die - this one gets full marks for ingenuity!

a sheep which has become trapped between a fence and a hedge

When Gill and I were putting the dogs away after their run this morning, we heard a sheep calling. It sounded as though she was unusually close (normally the sheep give the dogs a wide berth) so I glanced out through the hedge, but there was no sign of any sheep, so I assumed she'd gone back to the others at the far corner of the field.

A few moments later however, we heard another call from precisely the same direction, so I went out into the field to investigate and was amazed to see the poor woolly creature very firmly trapped between the bars of an old iron fence and the hedge. It looks as though the bars of the fence go right through her, but they are only squeezing her hard.

Rear view of the trapped sheep, showing how she found her way between fence and hedge

In its search for fresh food, the sheep had pushed herself between the hedge and the fence, and because bars of the iron fence are so rigid, she was unable to reverse back out again.

Fortunately, these young Welsh Mules are not very heavy, because she was stuck so fast, the only way I could get her out without assistance was to lift her vertically over the fence. She wasn't in the least bit grateful and struggled like mad, but I insisted on checking her over before I released her. There was no sign of physical harm done so I released her and I wouldn't have thought it possible but as she wandered back to the flock she looked decidedly embarrassed!

The sheep was physically unharmed and recovered fully from her ordeal but I wonder how long the poor girl had been there - it could have been all night! First posted 23 Feb 2014