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Orphan lambs

Hypothermia frequently occurs in newborn lambs, especially when the weather is bad or they don’t get a feed of colostrum within the first few hours of life.

If a lamb will suckle it should be offered a bottle-feed of colostrum to provide energy. If the lamb won’t suckle it might require stomach tubing. For an unresponsive or comatose lamb, an injection of dextrose into the abdomen before warming the lamb will increase the chance of survival, so contact your vet urgently.

Colostrum not only provides high levels of energy for newborn lambs, but also provides antibodies that protect lambs from disease during the first few months of life. Newborn lambs need to drink 15 to 20% of their bodyweight of colostrum (e.g. 4kg lamb needs 600 to 800mL) within the first 12 hours of life.

A common problem encountered in bottle-fed lambs is bloating of the abomasum (fourth stomach) after feeding. This is due to the bug sarcina, which produces gas from milk. To minimise the risk of bloat occurring, keep feeds small (less than 600ml), offer lambs access to grass and consider yoghurtised milk. Acidophilus yoghurt in milk provides good bugs, which compete with sarcina, reducing gas production. Ask us for the recipe!

Take care to watch for pneumonia and navel ill in your pet lambs. Aspiration pneumonia can occur if the hole in the teat is too large and lambs drink too fast causing some of the milk to go in to the airway. If you notice increased rate and effort of breathing, swelling of the navel or lameness in your pet lamb, talk to your vet.

Don’t forget to vaccinate your pet lambs against clostridial diseases such as pulpy kidney and tetanus.  It could save their lives!

Further information about the care of orphan lambs is available in the PDF documents for you to download:

Orphan lamb survival guide