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Death Of Lambs Following Copper Drenches

17 May 2017

During May and June 2016 SAC Consulting Veterinary Services investigated three separate incidents of lamb deaths following inhalation of mineral drenches.  Affected flocks reported multiple deaths of six to eight week old lambs following handling for multiple management tasks.  These included administration of worm and mineral drenches, clostridial and orf vaccination, tagging, castration and application of pour ons.  Some lambs began to cough and developed breathing difficulties after treatment with one flock reporting deaths within 15 minutes.  Other lambs were found dead over the next 24 hours.  The possibility of a bad reaction to vaccine triggered investigation in some cases.

Postmortem examination proved that the lambs had inhaled an irritant substance which damaged their lungs.  Lung tissue was shown to contain much higher copper levels than normal.  This proved that it was the mineral drench that had been inhaled.

These incidents highlight the need for care when administering oral minerals to young lambs particularly when multiple management tasks are being carried out.

Heather Stevenson,

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