Thursday, April 17, 2008

One way to save a lamb

So, I would venture to say that the little ewe twin of my yearling will make it. As a matter of fact she can push her slightly larger brother off a teat now---which is good news. Well, not for him maybe :-)

So quickly ,without super great detail, I would like to offer up some advice on how to save a lamb that I have learned through trial and error. These are things I have learned myself or through others.
First: No matter how the lamb is born, face forward or breech (but especially breech), if it seems as if it were the slightest bit stressed go ahead and hold the lamb VERY securely upside down and give a few slight swings to help it clear the lungs. As quoted from Jager Icelandic web site:

will need to give it a good swing to clear the lungs and passages of any inhaled birth fluids. Hold on tight to the wet and slippery lamb while you swing, and be sure to be clear of any obstacles!

Keep a close eye on a breech lamb for the next few hours to watch for labored breathing.

Sometimes a lamb appears to be breathing normally after a breech birth, but will then succumb to fluid in the lungs later in the day.

This will be kind of from one side of your body to the other. A few will do----unless you really hear a lot of fluid then a few more will be o.k. Sometimes even gently born lambs have a small wheeze---so I always give them a quick swing and hope for the best. I have yet to lose one to inhaled fluid though.

The first time my husband saw me do this he freaked out "your going to kill it---or snap it's neck" It may seem like that but it doesn't happen---however remember this is swinging with control---not over your head cowboy style.

Next---if it is born outside and it is windy/cool or especially below freezing or rainy drying the lamb is very important (or even if your pyrenees decide to love on one until it is sopping wet while it is cool and windy outside). Usually lambs are fine,get up and mom can do it on her own. However if you notice the lamb is not getting up or sluggish they may be getting cold. Especially if mom has two or more---a lamb that lays gets overlooked while others begin to move and nurse.
Sometimes if mom is new she has trouble getting them dry fast enough. Difficult births can have mom or baby slow to start. Twins or more leave one slightly unattended sometimes. Usually---things are fine. However if you need to warm a slightly damp or chilled lamb hairdryers are your friend. They deliver gentle warm dry heat that will leave the scent on the lamb. You can use them easily in a barn with electricity.
If the lamb has dropped to lower temps (take a rectal temperature of your lamb)you need to heat them with: heat lamps, pads, very warm but not hot water (with lamb in a trash bag before immersion up to the head)or a heat box whichever you prefer. I suggest that you always have a good book like Laura Lawson's Managing your ewe and her newborn lambs (or another) on hand. Hypothermia can kill lambs quickly. You must know what to do

If your lamb is still sluggish, but warming, they MUST have food. Again---you need to have a book because extreme hypothermia requires glucose ALWAYS during warming and before tubing---delivered abdominally so it will get there quick. If you warm them too much after they have been very cold they will die before they get warm without enough glucose for their body to use during warm up. You must at least have a book or something written so you can follow it and know what temperatures require what actions.
If your lamb just got slightly chilled--maybe it's temp never dropped below 101 or so--- you can also use 50% dextrose (yes, 50%) at 10cc, delivered into two places under the skin---preferable in the crotch of the back legs to kind of boost them. Use a small gauge needle---they have very thin skin. 20 or even a 22 gauge is best. Rub the bubble to disperse the glucose.
Another trick---is to put some into the fluid if you are feeding a colostrum substitute. I used about 6 cc in place of my water for a few times---however I was also able to milk my ewe and use her colostrum in addition.
Learn and understand how to tube your lamb because if it won't suck----it WILL die. If it won't suck and you are scared to try and tube because you are afraid you will accidentally drown your lamb---your lamb will still die. Remember: If you don't try because you are afraid to accidentally kill it----it will die anyway.
Keep tubing your lamb until it shows signs of 1) trying to nurse on its own ---then make sure it does or 2) until it shows signs of walking around and being frisky---then make sure it nurses. Books will give you a great idea of how much fluid down to the cc per pound but here is a general: 60cc (or 2 ounces) per 3 pounds of lamb EVERY every every 2 to 3 hours. If you go every 5 or 6 as some people do---the lamb will live but never get better. That happens frequently as people do not realize they must feed so often and the lamb slowly starves to death. The lamb will be always on the verge of starvation (also known as starvation induced hypothermia since their body temp can never go up completely without enough food). You MUST give them enough. It seems like a lot for their bellies but it is not. Promise.

Our one problem---we tubed our lamb so well she got full and wouldn't nurse. Once we realized she was so frisky and doing well we let her go without a feeding---we never could get her to suck a nipple for us. Finally---she got hungry and tried to nurse. We still had to help her the first few times (remember she hadn't gotten to nurse on mom before this) to find the nipple and kind of keep her brother from pushing her away. However she quickly caught on and is now a pro.

So...hopefully this helps someone in the future. Remember if you don't try---it will die anyway.

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