How you can save a sheep’s life

…it’s important to raise the BAA!

Find out how you can save a sheep’s life.

Sheep don’t sleep or even lie comfortably on their backs, so if you happen to see one in this position you can be sure it’s close to death. If you know what to do however, you can probably save its life. WATCH THE VIDEO!

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When you’re training a sheepdog you can sometimes be surprised by a sheep’s agility. That sprightliness has its limits though. Sheep aren’t designed to lie on their backs. If they should find themselves on their upside down, they’re not good at righting themselves.

A sheep on its back is a sheep near death

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. A horrible way to die. Watch the video above to find out how you can save a sheep’s life.

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 save a sheep’s life when it’s stranded on its back. Then share this page so that others will see how to do it too.

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23 responses to “How you can save a sheep’s life”

  1. Carl Shearwood avatar
    Carl Shearwood

    My friend and I just upturned a desperate large Ewe in the Hills of mid Wales. Very lucky as it was 500 metres up a hill, in quite remote wilderness. By the slightest of chances we noticed two hooves twitching above the grass. She was on her back by, caught in Tussock grass and trapped due to the hill slope. She must have been there for a while. The chances of anyone stumbling across her were almost non existent as we were 5 km’s from anyone. It felt great to see her run off. Lucky Ewe/you i thought. Strangely, my friends partner lost her favourite sheep that day. RIP Billy. x

    1. Andy avatar

      Thanks for the feedback Carl. It’s really good to know that the video has helped people to help distressed sheep. Sorry to hear your friend lost a sheep on the same day though…

  2. Eunice Ratcliffe avatar

    Thanks for an interesting instructional video and some useful information. On a recent holiday in Cumbria I was walking through a field of sheep when I noticed one on its back with a couple of very worried looking youngsters by its side. Although I knew very little about sheep I did realise that it shouldn’t be like that so with a quick Google and armed with your information I went across and managed to roll it over, whereby it scrambled to its feet, shook itself and trotted off happily with its two youngsters. Left alone the outcome would probably have been very different so thanks again for the information.

    1. Andy avatar

      Great to hear that our video was of help to you (and the sheep) Eunice! Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Robert and Veronique avatar
    Robert and Veronique

    Hello, my wife and I were walking on an airfield where there are sheep grazing, when my wife noticed one of the sheep on her back with legs in the air. We went on the internet and found your website and video. With a little trepidation we rolled her onto her front, but she wobbled and rolled over again. This happened three times. For the next attempt we rolled her and then rested our hands on her back, so that she stopped moving and rested for a few seconds. Then she was up, wobbled a little and stayed upright. We are not sure whether it was just luck that she stayed up, had regained her strength after the previous efforts or felt more relaxed having felt the pressure of our hands on her back for a little. There was another sheep on the field on her side but she seemed very weak and would not make any effort to get up, even with help. We called the shepherd who hopefully was able to help her. We would like to thank you for your very instructive video.

    1. Andy avatar

      Thanks for the feedback!
      It’s great to know you were able to save the sheep.

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