by: Dr. G.F. Kennedy
There are two different types of prolapses: Vaginal and Uterus. Let’s deal with vaginal prolapses first. In virgin ewes and ewe lambs this condition can have heredity origin and influence. Ewes eating up hill so to speak, bulky rations, injury during previous lambing’s, and multiple births may all be contributing factors. First time lambing ewes that are lambs are more likely to prolapse than ewes that lamb as two year olds, but ewes that lamb as yearlings are more productive over their lifetime than ewes that lamb as two year olds. Quite often first time lambing ewes that prolapse fail to totally dilate and this is possibly the most difficult challenge to overcome.
When vaginal prolapses present themselves without receding they need to be corrected. Failure to do so can result in the animal having difficulty passing urine, hardening of the vaginal wall and cervix, occasionally tearing or rupture of vaginal wall through which intestines herniate, resulting in death of the animal. Producers often use bearing retainers to correct the condition, good luck, I could never make those work for me. The advantage is they can lamb without interference with the retainer. I choose to replace the prolapse and instead I suture with three eighths inch umbilical tape which needs to be removed when the ewe lambs. That isn’t as difficult as it may seem because the signs of lambing are rather obvious and you do have some time.
I almost forgot the prolapse harness and with that I have to tell a story. The first time I went to Sedalia I went with Peter Bobendrier. I was new in the Suffolk game and Pete was taking good care of this amateur. One problem though, Pete was 60 years old and he was pretty sure he was going to die soon. I suppose I was 35 so he was a little ancient to me. Pete lived to be 90 or close to it and was one of the most fun guys I have met in the sheep business and very knowledgeable as well. At 79 your perspective changes but the memory is always there. Well back in those early days I had a ewe that was prolapsing, Peter said I can fix it. He took a half a day getting that homemade harness on that contrary ewe and I ended up suturing her anyway.
When these ewes fail to dilate and all they do is push a small water bag thru the cervix the difficulties begin. I immediately give ten cc dexmethasone and give them some time, possibly 3 hours and then I examine them and see if I can slowly force dilate the cervix. You should always lubricate well. If you are successful always suture afterwards because they almost routinely will prolapse their uterus. Antibiotic injection and antibiotics placed in uterus are indicated as well. Ewes that have lambed before, generally dilate and seldom need suturing afterward. A cesarean is the other solution. Never retain first time lambing ewes or their off spring as breeding stock if they show these problems. Ewes that have lambed before are an individual judgment call. I have not found other medications successful and I find that dexmethasone doesn’t have enough time.
A uterine prolapse is somewhat more difficult but generally successful. This is one reason and the only reason I keep Oxytocin in the lambing barn. You give the ewe three cc of Oxytocin and elevate her rear end, a lambing panel works well. As you are doing this the oxytocin will be shrinking the uterus. You lubricate well and return the uterus by gentle pressure so that you don’t tear or cause excessive hemorrhage. Place antibiotics in uterus, suture with 3/8 inch umbilical tape and a S curved needle, and administer 15 cc of penicillin and ten cc of dexmethasone and often success is at hand. Depending on the circumstance I will retain these ewes for another year.