by: Dr. G.F. Kennedy

The leading case of death in baby lambs is starvation. This sounds bad and simple. In some respects it is simple and yet it can be very complicated particularly for people that are new in the business or people that haven’t learned good husbandry skills. To some it comes natural, to others it is difficult. My experience would say women are generally better than men.

Many of these lambs supposedly get laid on. A higher rate of this could be that they either died of starvation or were to weak to get out of the way.

As soon as a ewe lambs and is found and jugged up her teats need to be checked for soundness and presence of milk. Volume of milk may vary and with some ewes the milk comes later as they begin to nurse, but teats need to be open.

If milk is short or births are multiple; it may be necessary to tube with colostrum. Sometimes milk replacer is adequate just to get them started, particularly in cold conditions.

Every day, every lamb should be checked and if in doubt his abdomen should be handled for fullness and his mouth checked for warmth.

I prefer early action for lambs in trouble, tubing with our Lamb and Kid Quick Start and Milk Replacer which needs to be warm. This is much more effective and safer than injecting dextrose solutions.

I encountered a gentleman from the South that had several hundred sheep but the cold weather and low quality hay had been going on too long and he was loosing ewes and lambs from starvation. Normally they would have had pasture longer and the weather wouldn’t have been so severe. They needed corn and at least some alfalfa hay to turn things around. A ewe or nanny needs adequate nutrition to provide milk.

Severe cold may be not as cold on the thermometer in the south as in the north, but animals and people are not acclimated and cold is cold regardless of where it occurs. It requires more energy for animals to be comfortable and productive than it would take under normal conditions.

Forget about lick tubs, corn and soy bean meal are always cheaper.

About Ask-a-Vet Sheep

Veterinary services, procedures, biologicals, and drugs mentioned in this publication represent the personal opinions and clinical observations of the contributing author. They are in no way intended to be interpreted as recommendations without the consent of the producer’s own practicing Veterinarian. We strongly urge that producers establish a patient-client-veterinarian relationship that allows extra-label use when there are no drugs approved for treatment or if approved drugs are not effective. This procedure allows veterinarians to go beyond label directions when “prudent use” is necessary. The limited availability of drugs and biologics in this country is a major factor in restricting the growth of the sheep industry and allowing producers to compete in the world market place.
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