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how do you know if a sheep is in labour?

Bernice Parker, 18 March 2015

Hello Lambcam-ers - here is the answer to the most frequently asked question of this year's lambing season.

'How can you tell when a sheep is in labour?'

Here are some of the signs that you can look out for:

  • Hiding away quietly in the corner – this behaviour would be to avoid predators in the wild.
  • Licking the lips – a preparation for cleaning the lamb after it is born.
  • Restless standing up and lying down.
  • Pawing at the ground – scratching up a soft ‘nest’ for the lamb to be born into.
  • Visible straining at regular intervals.
  • Visible mucus, water bag or a pair of feet protruding from the ewe’s back end!

And now here's a gratuitously cute picture of St Fagans first ever set of quads. Born last night...

The St Fagans shepherd, with the first set of quads ever to be born at the museum

Watch a view live from the lambing shed to see the action unfold

As part of the redevelopment project at St.Fagans National History Museum, we wish to open our doors to volunteers and invite them to work alongside the Preventive Conservation team, helping to care for the collections on open display in the historic houses. There are hundreds of objects on display ranging from furniture, textiles, pottery and agricultural equipment. Providing plenty of opportunities to share a skill or learn something new.


Caring for this site is no mean feat, we currently have 26 furnished properties including a castle. Plus there are 4 new buildings on the way, including a medieval hall and the Vulcan pub! So plenty to keep us busy. The Museum is also open throughout the year and can have up to 700,000 visitors during that time, which means we are kept on our toes making sure everything continues to look good, day in and day out.

This work is a combined effort, involving staff from many different sections, which often goes on behind the scenes unnoticed by visitors. However, we wish to change this and provide opportunities for volunteers to assist us, not only in the care of objects, but also contribute to interpretation and help inform the public.


We are currently refurbishing one of the cottages on site, aiming to provide a comfortable and creative work space for our new collection care volunteers. We hope to start recruiting in May so if you're interested, I'll be posting more updates as the project continues to progress.

Preventive conservation and collection care. Our objects come in all shapes and sizes and range of materials.

Volunteer project. Rag rugs, from the collection, being used as inspiration to help recreate authentic rugs for the historic houses.

Some of the largest objects we care for at St.Fagans belong to the agricultural collection.

We’re in the process of preparing objects to go on display in the new galleries that are being built on the site of St Fagans.  #makinghistory  

As the textile conservator, I have come across three objects that, though they are kept in the textile store, are not exclusively made of textile but have paper components and have botanical specimens attached, neither of which come under my area of expertise.  Hence, I’ve roped in my two colleagues, the  Senior Conservator Archives and the Senior Conservator Natural Sciences and the three of us will now jointly treat these objects. 

Joint projects are always a great opportunity for sharing skills and learning from colleagues so we’re all really looking forward to this!

Portfolio consisting of paper, botanical specimen and textile

Fragile? and the youth forum

Sian Lile-Pastore, 17 March 2015

Our design inspiration
Our design inspiration

The youth forum in National Museum Cardiff has been working on lots of different projects, but RIGHT NOW they are putting together a publication to tie in with the upcoming contemporary ceramics exhibition Fragile?. This publication is going to be alternative guide to the exhibition and will contain interviews with artists along with some superb articles looking at ceramics, vinyl, death and murder.

We have had some help from lots of museum staff along with interview and writing tips from Emma Geliot (editor of CCQ magazine) and layout and design work planning with Liz Price from Chipper Designs.

We hope it's going to be all ready for the opening on April 18th, but there's still a lot of work ahead! it's just like being on Press Gang (90s tv reference...)

  • There are currently about 100 breeding ewes in the flock and we expect 150+ lambs.
  • Our ewes are 2 years old the first time they lamb.
  •  The gestation period for a sheep is 5 months:
  1. The ewes come into season in September.
  2. We put our rams in the field in with the girls on 1st October.
  3. Lambing will commence in the first week of March.
  4. We choose this schedule in order to have lambs on show in the fields for Easter.
  •  The pregnant ewes come in from the field just after Christmas for extra care, shelter and food. This is important for strong lamb development.
  • The ewes are all scanned in the New Year and we separate them into two groups:
  1. Those expecting a single lamb in one group.
  2. Those expecting twins or triplets in the other.
  • Normal presentation for a lamb to be born is head and forelegs first. If this is the case then the ewes can normally manage with no assistance. They will sometimes need help if the lamb is particularly big, or if it is coming the wrong way round.
  • Once they have given birth, the ewe and her lambs will be put into a separate pen:
  1. This allows the bonding process to happen.
  2. It prevents the ewes that haven’t lambed yet overenthusiastically ‘adopting/stealing’ someone else’s baby!
  3. They stay separate for 1-2 days.
  4. Weather permitting, healthy ewes and lambs can go out into the field after 3-5 days.
  •  It is normal for ewes to have blood and mucus around their back ends after giving birth.
  •  It is normal for new babies to sleep a lot - newborn lambs will sleep for 12-16 hours a day.
  • We will probably keep or sell most of the female lambs as pedigree breeding stock, most of the males will go for meat with a few of the best sold as breeding rams.
  •  Lamb on your plate is anything from 4-12 months old.

a llanwennog lamb takes it first steps

A newborn llanwenog lamb

newborn Llanwenog twins