Patterns of Maternal Behaviour in Sheep

Ioan Tibru


The mother-offspring behaviour patterns were monitored in 10 ewes and their new-born lamb(s), during one month, between 1015 am and 1915 pm. Inside the shelter, the temperature ranged between 9 and 20°C and outside, there was sunny weather, with mild wind blow. The observations were made from 10 m distance, without breaking into the sheep’s flight zone. There were observed 2130 patterns of ewe-lamb interaction, belonging to 22 main manifestations of maternal behaviour. The most frequently observed behaviour in the ewes was lamb grooming (licking): licking the head of the lamb was observed 356 times (41%), followed by licking the forequarter – 265 times (30%), the back of the lamb – 131 times (15%), the abdominal area – 91 times (10%) and the perineal and/or anogenital area – 36 times (4%). Studies of maternal and neonatal behaviour in sheep contribute to development of management practices, resulting in decreased neonatal mortality, increased meat production and improvement of animal health and welfare. They also confirm the importance of ethology in the veterinary practice.


ethology, grooming behaviour, maternal behaviour, sheep, welfare

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