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Frequency and cost of human intervention at lambing: an interbreed comparison
  1. C. M. Dwyer, BSc, PhD1 and
  2. A. B. Lawrence, BSc, PhD1
  1. 1Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Sustainable Livestock Systems Groups, SAC, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG


The frequency of human intervention during lambing was assessed for 708 lambs and 162 ewes in up to four deliveries. In total, 21·8 per cent of the lambs born alive required some assistance at birth and 9·4 per cent were delivered manually. Assistance was required less frequently by twin lambs and ewe lambs, and Scottish blackface lambs required assistance less frequently than Suffolk lambs. Approximately one-third of the ewes were assisted in at least one delivery and 10 per cent were assisted in all their deliveries; however, less than 20 per cent of ewes were assisted more than once. A quarter of the lambs needed some human intervention to suck successfully, and Suffolk lambs needed help more frequently. The lambs born to almost half the first-parity ewes needed help to suck, but at later deliveries the lambs born to less than a third of the ewes needed assistance. In blackface flocks the survival of 100 lambs required 4·6 hours of human intervention whereas in Suffolk flocks 28 hours were required.

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  • Dr Dwyer’s present address is Sustainable Livestock Systems Groups, SAC, Sir Stephen Watson Building, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PH

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