Low birth weights and cold are the main causes of lamb deaths, says Dan Morrical, sheep extension specialist at Iowa State University.
Morrical told a sheep symposium her that single lambs should weight about seven per cent of the ewe’s body weight at birth, said Morrical. Twins should weigh about six-and-ahalf per cent, and triplets should weigh in at about five-and-ahalf per cent, he said. “If lambs are really small, you will have a problem with lamb losses.”
Morrical said the most frequent cause of death for lambs is hypothermia. Lambs will get cold if they are not getting enough nutrients from their mother. If lambs are too weak to hold their heads up, they cannot be given food through a tube, which greatly increases the risk of pneumonia.
If lambs are extremely cold, they can be given sugar water through a syringe. This can be mixed to four ccs of sugar and 30 ccs of water and should be warmed. Morrical suggests using distilled water, warming it in the microwave, and then adding the dextrose to make up the solution.
“Use good care when you fill the syringe because that stuff grows bugs like you wouldn’t believe,” said Morrical. “Use a good, clean fresh needle every time you draw out some dextrose.”
He also suggests filling thermoses with warm milk replacer and warm colostrum in the barn so that these nutrients can be given to ailing lambs immediately. Morrical also emphasizes proper nutrition and believes in giving vitamin supplements and minerals to pregnant ewes so that they are not vitamin deficient before they give birth. He says he does not believe that healthy animals need shots.