Lamb survival is such a critical part of farming for profit because they are so susceptible to death from exposure or infection due to their small size especially if they are from a multiple birth.
If you have received a lamb that is a few days or a week old then usually all you need to do is keep feeding it and keep it warm. If you have orphans or have been given a new born within a day or two old then special care is needed to keep it alive.
Once you get your lamb home, you can now start to care for it and there are a few things to look out for:
- Has it had colostrum?
- Is it drinking ok and have plenty of energy?
- Is it cold and need warming up?
- Is the navel looking infected? Treat with an iodine based spray to be sure if it is within a couple of days old. Trim any long umbilical cords to about 50mm from the body.
- Even if it’s a few days old it still needs to be kept warm and fed regularly because lambs can go downhill very quickly if close attention is not paid.
Colostrum is the first milk from the ewe that is high in protein, fat and vitamins and minerals that provide energy for the lamb to grow and it provides antibodies that protect the lamb against disease and infection since it has no immune system yet.
Immunoglobulins cannot pass through the placenta so it is vital that the lamb receives colostrum within the first 18 hours but the earlier the better. Antibody transfer slows rapidly between 24 and 36 hours so those first few hours are critical.
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
– Check lambs are nursing – does lamb have full stomach?
– Strip teats to check milk supply of ewe.
– Tether lamb/s to rejecting ewe to feed
– Mother up orphans to another ewe if rejected by own mother
If bottle feeding is required then colostrum from one’s own healthy flock is recommended but a cows’ liquid or powdered colostrum is a good substitute.
BIGGEST THREATS TO SURVIVAL: HYPOTHERMIA AND STARVATION
If a lamb is not drinking enough milk to make energy for warmth then it will start to lose body temperature and will be vulnerable to hypothermia. Small lambs are more susceptible than larger lambs especially during bad weather e.g. snowy or rainy days with cold wind.
Tube feed the lamb/s colostrum if necessary to elevate body temperature and consider moving lamb/s to a warmer part of farm or a barn to assist this.
Hypothermia usually occurs in lambs over 24 hours old from exposure and is a result of starvation. Older lambs suffering from hypothermia should be treated exactly the same except they will not require any colostrum and a standard LMR (lamb milk replacer) should be fed.
This is considered the biggest killer of lambs and usually occurs within the first few days of life.
It is very visible to see as lambs tend to be either standing with heads down and ears drooping or sitting down and not moving as it’s too weak to get up.
Things that can contribute to starvation are
- Insufficient colostrum
- Sore mouth
- Fatigue from difficult birth
- Rejection from mother
- Teats – blocked, too big
- Poor milk production
Treat as above and tube feed and keep warm. If you have intervened in time it may have a better chance to survive so getting it warm is a big priority.
A lamb’s normal body temp is 38.8 – 39.4oC and when this drops below 37.7oC it is considered hypothermic. Use a rectal thermometer to check temperatures accurately.
- Wet lambs should be dried and wrapped in a towel or wool blanket.
- If needed use a hair dryer to help in warming.
- You can use a heat lamp but do so sparingly as lambs can overheat
- Put lambs in a warm shed or garage until you see they are moving well