Pregnant ewes can sometimes experience complications during the labour process. When not recognised and handled timeously, these may cause great harm to both the ewe and the lamb. The normal lambing process involves the cervix of the ewe being fully dilated through a series of contracting and relaxing muscles of the uterine against the cervix pushing the lamb out of the cervix.  Ringwomb in sheep is defined as failure of the cervix to dilate fully during the lambing process. In simple terms, the cervix fails to relax and expand as required limiting the available passage space for lambing. Affected ewes may attempt to lamb for several hours without anything to show for it. Ringwomb in sheep can lead to traumatic injuries for lambs and possibly death due to the separation of the placenta whilst still stuck inside the ewe.

Causes of Ringwomb in Sheep

There are various causes of ringwomb in sheep. In order to provide relevant treatment, it is of the essence to have an understanding of the causes. According to research studies on the subject matter, the contributory factors of ringwomb in sheep have been recognised to be many and diverse. It is also stated that the exact cause is unknown. Experts are therefore still in the process of determining the actual cause; however, a few have been suggested. Ringwomb in sheep may be due to the genotype of the livestock. Cross breeding sheep that have a genotype history of ringwomb can result in the ewe also suffering from the condition. In addition, pure breeding sheep that also have had ringwomb may lead to the occurrence of ringwomb in sheep. The imbalance of hormonal secretions that regulate the tissues for the cervix to dilate may also lead to failure of cervix dilation during the lambing process. This hormonal imbalance paired with a lack of calcium in the ewe dietary plan is also thought to be among the leading causes of ringwomb in sheep. In severe scenarios, nutrients deficiency can cause death of the lamb inside the womb which results in abortion. An important factor to be aware of is that any traumatic events in lambing can cause ringwomb in sheep, depending on whether there was any scarring of cervix tissues. As such, it is advisable to be highly cautious during the lambing process so as to provide relevant treatment when the need arises.

Types of Ringwomb in Sheep

Ringwomb in sheep may occur as true ringwomb or false ringwomb. Although these occur differently, they often have the same impact on ewes. It is therefore very important for farmers to account for the occurrence of these timeously. Delays may result in a series of severe issues that may even cause livestock of death. According to experts, it is easier to adopt preventive measures when the exact type of ringwomb in sheep is known. The following are the main types:

True Ringwomb in Sheep

True ringwomb occurs when there is complete failure of the cervix to dilate fully. In simple terms, the outside of the cervix is very tight preventing the occurrence of the lambing process. In such a case, only one to two fingers can pass through. In true ringwomb, the ewe sometimes has protruding membranes. Additionally, signs of labour may be visible without any lambing taking place. If the ewe has been in labour for over an hour, often standing without anything to show for it, this may be a sign of true lambing. True ringwomb does not mean that the lamb is in breech position. The lamb might be presented normally with the two forefeet and head, however the contractions failing to dilate the cervix to allow lambing. The main cause of this type of ringwomb in sheep is often attributed to genetics. However, other factors may be responsible for the condition.  Studies indicate that true ringwomb in sheep does not occur in two consecutive lambing seasons and therefore its occurrence can be dated back to genetics. Ewes which have had prolapsed vaginas before the gestation period have also been noticed to have ringwomb during the lambing process. Failure to act during the lambing process usually results in the lamb being separated from the placenta which is the cause of death. True ringwomb in sheep cannot be treated or cured without clinical measures. This type of ringwomb in sheep is usually treated through operation. A caesarean operation is conducted to save the lamb(s) and the ewe. It is recommended to cull the ewe from the rest of the flock following a caesarean procedure.

False Ringwomb in Sheep

The second type of ringwomb common in sheep is the false ringwomb. False ringwomb is a result of the partial dilation of the cervix during the birth process of lambs. The shepherd might disturb the full dilation of the cervix during the lambing process which results in ringwomb. The condition is slightly different from true ringwomb in sheep. Unlike in true ringwomb, the cervix allows the shepherd’s fingers to pass through and feel the lamb inside the uterus. The space is however not enough to allow the lambing process. Another possible cause for false ringwomb in sheep is wrong positioning of the lamb for normal delivery to take place. The lamb might also be in breech position so that it cannot aid in its own birthing process, which is basically pushing out for the cervix to open. Multiple lambs inside the ewe can also be wrongly positioned making it difficult for the cervix muscles to be relaxed and dilate. The treatment for false ringwomb in sheep can be achieved through manipulating the lamb position so that its head and forefeet are normally placed allowing for the normal birthing process to occur. The shepherd can stretch the cervix of the sheep through the use of lubrications. If the lambs are weak, it is recommended that the shepherd takes out the lambs quickly before the separation of the placenta occurs. In severe cases of ringwomb where manipulation is impossible or stretching the cervix might lead to vaginal prolapse, a caesarean operation should be performed and the ewe culled from the rest of the flock. Note that if ringwomb in sheep is not taken care of as soon as possible, the lamb might die. The lamb may decompose and infect the bloodstream of the ewe causing septicaemia, a blood poison condition. A consequence of this type of infection is usually death of the ewe.