Gareth shares advice on how to give newborn lambs the best start
April 21, 2021
Keeping newborn lambs alive can be tricky. Statistics show that around 50% of newborn lamb deaths occur within the first 48 hours, and another 11% just 2-14 days later. With stats like these, head vet Gareth Keevill wants you to know how to give your newborn lambs the best chance of survival.
The two main causes of newborn lamb mortality are hypothermia and starvation, followed closely by poor hygiene and disease. Lambs are vulnerable because they’re often born into cold and wet conditions. They have limited energy reserves and a large surface area ratio to body weight, so they need to be dry and feeding quickly.
Lambs also have a very permeable gut lining that allows bacteria and toxins to easily enter the bloodstream. They don’t receive disease immunity through the placenta, instead, lambs rely on colostrum intake shortly after birth for this.
Gareth advises that these 7 things will give your newborn lambs the best chance of a healthy start in life:
- Always Vaccinate Your Flock – Protect against diseases that could affect both ewes and newborn lambs. Ask us about sheep vaccinations.
- Practice Good Hygiene – Clean a large pen thoroughly using DEFRA-approved disinfectant. Once dry, use plenty of clean, dry bedding for the new arrivals. Wear disposable, close-fitting protective gloves when lambing ewes that need help.
- Avoid Hypothermia – Ensure lambs are dried off quickly after birth. Try to intervene as little as possible, but you can towel dry and put the lamb in a warming box with warm air fans set at 35-37°C if needed. Warm it before feeding.
- Avoid Starvation – Lambs need to be up on their feet and suckling quickly. If the mother isn’t providing enough milk, you can take it from another ewe and tube feed.
- Prevent Disease – Within 15 minutes of birth, treat the navel cord with iodine solution to prevent naval disease. Also, make sure the lamb is getting enough colostrum (from its mother or taken from another ewe) for passive disease immunity.
- Bonding & Adoption – Use animal-safe spray paint to identify mothers and lambs and make sure they’re bonded. If the mother has died, or has given birth to triplets or quads, you can try to adopt some lambs to another ewe. Ask our vets about the best adoption techniques for lambs.
- Spring Feeding – When ready, the new families can be turned out into the field. Ewes can graze on fresh spring grass and be supplemented with sheep feed to aid milk production. Lambs can be given a special food called creep in lamb feeders.
If you have any questions about lambing, get in touch with our friendly team.