by Grace Hatton
Most of what I know about dealing with sick baby lambs comes directly from the internet, specifically the sheep-l. The first thing I learned was never to attempt to feed milk to a chilled lamb. It won't work. A cold lamb can't digest milk. Warm the lamb first. After rewarming you can feed it if it will drink from a bottle or tube feed it or even inject glucose solution intraperitoneally.
The most common lamb problem after chilling is scouring. The cause can be due to coccidia, bacteria, a change in feed or grain overload (sometimes due to a different lamb being sick and not eating its share), poisoning or worms. Consider recent management practices to help in diagnosing the problem. If you aren't using a coccidiostat for lambs raised in close quarters, more than likely that is the problem. Sulfa drugs will help against outbreaks of scours due to coccidia and bacteria. In the case of coccidia, prevention is better than curing. We are very pleased with decoquinate. It is very safe and effective. It won't harm equines.
Coccidia can damage the intestinal lining long before actual scouring appears. The damage can limit the lambs growth for a long time after the infection. Grain overload or acidosis can be helped by giving baking soda and limiting the feed for the next few feedings. Worm infestations may show symptoms of anemia or bottle jaw. Maybe the worms have become resistant to the wormer you have been using. The current opinion on worm resistance is to use the same wormer for as long as possible. Do not switch wormers within a year or every other year.
If there is very severe scouring, the lamb can lose so much fluid it can go into shock. IV fluids, can make all the difference. In a pinch, sterile electrolyte injected at multiple sites under the skin may work.
Pneumonia in lambs is an emergency. Obviously a lamb can't live long if it can't breathe. Rapid breathing (when penmates are breathing normally), unusual breath sounds (a stethoscope is cheap - - around $7) in the chest or dusky or bluish colored skin on a normally pink nose means you need to treat with your favorite antibiotic immediately. If you treat them before they go down, most will recover quickly. If the antibiotic doesn't seem to have helped the lamb in 4 to 8 hours, try a different one.
Our pens have little sheds attached for the lambs so the lambs can get out of the rain or snow- - and out of sight. We learned the hard way to make sure all the lambs show up for meals by counting them. One that's not feeling well may curl up somewhere in misery and by the time it is found, it may be too late to help it.
Ron Parker's The Sheep Book told us to give a sick baby lamb a baby aspirin (one quarter of a regular aspirin) in addition to any other treatment to relieve pain and get it back to normal rapidly.
Woody Lane reminds sheep-l participants that baby lambs that have not begun to ruminate can be quickly started on solid food, starting with straight soybean meal (ours is roasted and defatted) as early as the first week of life. This works either as a creep supplement to dam-raised lambs or artificially reared lambs and is a tremendous aid in early weaning.
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