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Lamb Care from Birth



 lambing time

 

Lamb Care from Birth

The Best Start in Life for Lambs

 

In order to produce well grown, healthy lambs, it is imperative that lambs receive the best start in life. If lambing indoors, the shed should be a clean, well lit and ventilated area. Adequate skilled labour should be available throughout the lambing period to allow all newborn lambs to be closely monitored and early treatment to be administered when necessary for the best chances of survival.  

 

Hygiene

A clean and hygienic environment is of utmost importance for new born lambs. They enter the world with very little protection of their own from disease and so exposure to bacteria needs to be minimal.

 

All pens should be cleaned out and disinfected between ewes. If this is not possible, replace the bedding as a minimum. Dusting lime powder under bedding acts as a drying agent and helps to reduce the risk of bacterial growth. Minimising stocking densities also minimises the risk of disease.

 

Ensure water and feed buckets are kept clean on a day to day basis. Hot water and soap should be used to clean out stomach tubes and lamb bottles after every use.

 

If a lambing requires assistance, ensure hands and arms are clean before entering the ewe. Using a new pair of arm length gloves for each lambing will ensure you remain clean and, therefore, the ewes have less risk of getting a post lambing infection.

 

Ensuring adequate lamb nutrition

Colostrum contains natural antibodies which provide newborn lambs with protection against diseases such as watery mouth, navel ill and joint ill in the first few weeks of life. If ewes have been managed and fed appropriately during pregnancy they should produce good quality colostrum.  Vaccinating the ewes 4-6 weeks prior to lambing against clostridial disease and pasterella will also provide protection to the lambs through the colostrum.  

 

In order to receive the benefits of colostrum, lambs must receive adequate amounts within the first 4 hours of life. If in doubt 50ml/kg (approx. 200ml for a 4kg lamb) should be administered via stomach tube.

 

Colostrum substitutes are available; however natural ewe colostrum is the gold standard. Ewes that have more colostrum than is immediately required can have it stripped from them and frozen in small quantities to be used for lambs that require ‘’topping up”. If using frozen colostrum care should be taken to defrost it gently as overheating it will destroy the antibodies present.

 

Protection from disease

All lambs’ navels should be dipped in an iodine solution at birth; this can be repeated 4 hours later if necessary. The navel provides a direct route for bacteria to travel into the lamb resulting in ‘navel ill’ and ‘joint ill’, serious diseases that often result in death.  Iodine acts as a disinfectant and dries the navel out, therefore decreasing the risk of these diseases.

 

Treating hypothermia

Hypothermia sets in when a lamb’s body temperature drops below 39°C.  This usually occurs in small weak lambs that have not received adequate colostrum, however any lamb can be susceptible if born into a wet, cold environment or does not receive enough feed. ‘Lamb Macs’ can help prevent hypothermia in young lambs living outdoors when the weather is cold and wet. Treatment for hypothermia depends on the temperature and age of the lamb. In lambs over 5 hours old it is important to provide the lamb with either colostrum or glucose before warming the lamb up. 

A 20% glucose injection into the abdomen of a severely hypothermic lamb can be life-saving. Most glucose available is 40%, this can be made into a 20% solution by mixing 25ml of 40% glucose with 25ml of boiled water. Locate the point an inch to the right and an inch below the umbilicus, insert the needle at a 45° angle pointing towards the tail and slowly inject the solution. Ask your vet for a demonstration is you are unsure.

  1. Summary for reducing risk if disease in newborn lambs:
  2. Good Hygiene throughout the lambing shed
  3. Dip navels with iodine solution
  4. Ensure adequate colostrum in first 4 hours of life
  5. Regular monitoring of lambs and ewes for signs of disease.  
  6. Early intervention and treatment when problems arise

 

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Source Details

Rebecca Vallis BVetMed, MRCVS Molecare Farm Vets



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