What to do if you see a sheep lying on its back

Sheep don’t sunbath. If you see one on its back it might need help.
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What to do if you see a sheep lying on its back.

Whilst you’re out walking in the countryside keep a lookout for sheep lying on their back. Sheep do not naturally lie on their backs and will struggle to stand up. If you come across a sheep lying on its back there’s a chance it could be in serious trouble.

How do sheep end up on their back?

Sheep are at risk of getting stuck on their backs if they are heavily pregnant, if they have heavy fleece or if they are just too fat.

What’s the danger?

When sheep get stuck on their backs they are vulnerable to attack from predators. But what’s more alarming is that it could be suffocating.

Grass ferments in a sheep’s stomach, a by-product of which is gas. If a sheep is on its back the gas can’t be released. Increasing pressure on the lungs and leading to breathing issues, and potentially suffocation.

What to do if you find a sheep lying on its back

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) advises people not to approach sheep or livestock as it may cause undue stress, but to find/contact a farmer instead.

This is particularly the case when the time of the year is when ewes are lambing (Spring). Ewes can sometimes abandon their lambs or get stressed during lambing if they are approached by people who do not know how to act properly.

If you cannot find/contact the farmer and you’re worried that the sheep may die, take hold of it’s legs or fleece and simply roll it over. It could roll over onto its back again, so you might have to try again. Once back on its feet it will be quick to move away from you, perhaps wobbling at first.

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