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26 March 2018

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Hypothermia is a common cause of lamb deaths, if there are any concerns, take the lambs temperature.  The normal temperature for a lamb is 390C.

If the lamb is between 370C and 390C and able to swallow then it should be fed warm colostrum by stomach tube and then returned to its mother in a warm bedded pen with no draughts.

If the lamb is below 370C and able to swallow then it should be warmed, using a heat box to 370C, before being fed and returned to its mother.

If the lamb is below 370C and is over five to six hours old, it is likely it is unable to swallow.  In this scenario an injection of warmed glucose can be given straight into the abdomen of the lamb, this is called intraperitoneal glucose.  This should be injected using a sterilised needle, 1inch below the navel and ½ inch to the side of the navel, with the needles pointed towards the lamb’s tail head (10ml/kg body weight).  It is a good idea to ask your vet for a refresher of this process.  If the lamb was under five to six hours old it would have brown fat “adipose” to provide energy, once the lamb is over five to six hours old the reserves will have gone and the lamb would burn muscle and produce ketones which can have a detrimental effect on the lamb.  Following this treatment the lamb should be placed in a warming box and checked every 20 -30 minutes.

Ideally colostrum should be from a ewe in the flock.  Lambs should receive 50ml/kg of liveweight colostrum in the first few hours of birth and by the time the lamb is 24 hours old it should have received 200ml/kg.  Beware if heating or thawing frozen supplies so you do not denature the protein based immunoglobulins with extreme heats.  As a guide if the water is too hot for your hand then it is too hot for colostrum.  It should be heated to 390C.  If feeding ewes milk through a tube or teat you may need to mix with warm water to ensure it easily flows through the duct.  Cow colostrum is often available from dairies but it is not as concentrated as ewe colostrum, the quantity fed should be increased by approximately 30% to ensure for adequate antibodies.  Johne’s can be transmitted through milk, so ensure the colostrum is sourced from a Johne’s free herd.

Kirsten Williams, 

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