Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First Day Of A Lambs Life

Normally a lamb is born with it’s head resting on it’s front feet. You will see two front feet appear, then the knees and then the nose will appear followed very quickly by the rest of the lamb. 
When the ewe stands up, the umbilical cord will break on its own. Do not cut the cord as this is likely to cause excessive bleeding. Allow the cord to tear on its own.
Once the lamb is born, check to make sure that it is breathing. Wipe the head and nose off well to make it easier for the lamb to breath. If the lamb is not breathing, try inserting a piece of straw a short way into a nostril to encourage the lamb to sneeze. You may also need to lift the lamb up by the rear legs and vigorously rub its sides.
The feet should also be pointing downward in a normal presentation. Feet that are pointing upward are generally from a breech birth. Lambs can be born in the breech position, but you will want to be sure to have the birth progress rapidly. As soon as a breech-positioned lamb is born, hold him up by his back legs and rub down his sides to help remove any fluid from his lungs.

The ewe will lick the lamb clean and dry. This is very important as it stops the lamb from getting cold. The ewe and her lamb are also beginning to get to know on another as she licks and nuzzles the lamb dry. 
In cold weather it is also a good idea to dry off the ears and tail as best as possible. This helps to prevent freezing. Allow the mother to lick the lamb to clean off the rest. She should be bonding with her lamb.
If the mother is still lying down, move the lamb toward her head so that she can lick off the lamb. This is a bonding process for the mother and lamb to identify each other. They will need to be able to identify each other once they are turned out with a group of ewes and lambs.
A vigorous lamb will soon be trying to stand up. For weaker lambs, they may need a few minutes longer sometimes up to an hour before they are ready to stand up to nurse. You may want to give any weaker lambs a dose of a high energy/vitamin and mineral drench to provide extra energy until they are able to nurse on their own.

Ewes are caring mothers and develop deep bonds with their lambs. Each ewe can recognise her lambs by their bleats alone.
The first 24 hours of a lambs life are a critical time. During these first hours of their life they learn to bond with their mother, this strong bond is vital for their survival. The ewe will soon coax the lamb to its feet by licking, nudging and nosing it. Outdoors, it is very important that the lamb gets up quickly because of predators. Usually the lamb can stand within a few minutes. The lamb then takes its first feed by suckling from the ewe’s udder. The first milk is called colostrum. This is special milk that is rich in antibodies which protect the lamb from some infections. 

The ewe and her lambs need to be monitored closely for the first few days after birth. Healthy lambs are content, and will stretch when getting up and wag their tails when nursing. A gaunt and weak appearance may be indicative of starvation. Check the ewe to be sure she has milk. Check her teats to make sure they are open and to check that the mother has milk. Another task is to dip the lamb's navel in iodine to prevent any navel infections. In the case of multiple births, the smallest lamb may not be able to compete for the milk supply. Constipation can be a problem in newborn lambs if feces dry and mat down on the tail. Cleaning the area with a damp rag will alleviate this problem.

The newborn lamb and their mother should be together in their own pen/jug for at least 24 hours. Strong, healthy singles may be removed from the jugs in 24 to 36 hours after birth and twins after 48 hours. Triplets and ewes with weak lambs may need to stay in the jug for three or more days. Remove ewes and lambs from the jug as quickly as possible, as the longer they are confined, the greater the chances of them contracting pneumonia and diarrhea. 

Hypothermia and Starvation
Hypothermia is defined as low body temperature. This condition may result from a variety of factors including exposure, weakness, trauma, and starvation. Lambs with hypothermia appear weak, gaunt, and hunched up. In severe cases, the lamb may be unable to hold its head up and may even be unconscious. The ears and mouth may feel cold, and the lamb may lack a suckling response. The normal body temperature for lambs is 102° to 103°F. Lambs with temperatures below 100° are considered hypothermic. Use a rectal thermometer to measure body temperature.
In newborn lambs, true hypothermia may result from exposure. In these cases, it is necessary to get warm colostrum into the lamb immediately to bring its body temperature up. Tube feeding is an effective means to administer this colostrum. It may also be necessary to move the lamb into a warmer environment to elevate its body temperature. If wet, the lamb should be dried off and wrapped in a towel. A cardboard box can be used to confine the lamb, with jugs of warm water used as a heat source. This method is similar to the heating boxes that are sold commercially. Heat lamps may also be effective. However, heat lamps should not be used routinely in the lambing barn. They are expensive to operate, and do not supply enough heat to prevent hypothermia. They also are a fire risk. Healthy lambs are adaptable to very cold temperatures, provided the environment is dry and free of cold drafts. As the lamb warms up, monitor its body temperature. Water baths have also been used to warm lambs, although care should be exercised not to use very hot water (>105°F), which will warm the lamb too quickly and cause shock.

Lambs may also be raised artificially on milk replacer. The milk replacer should be specifically formulated and labeled for lambs. Again, lambs require colostrum within the first 24 hours after birth and then may be placed on milk replacer. The best candidate for artificial rearing in a multiple birth situation is the smallest, weakest lamb. The sooner the lamb is taken off the ewe, the easier it is to train to the bottle. It frequently takes several feedings to train the lamb to the bottle. Starting with a hungry lamb (five to six hours since last feeding) will assist in training. It may be necessary to force-feed the bottle. Lambs will consume around 20 percent of their body weight in milk per day. This would equate to about 38 ounces per day for a 12-pound lamb (12 pounds x 16 ounces per pound x .20 = 38 ounces). This amount should be divided according to how many times the lamb will be fed per day. One- to two-day-old lambs should be fed a minimum of four times a day, while older lambs can be fed only twice. A warm, dry pen is important for the health of artificially reared lambs. Another important aspect of bottle feeding is to get the lambs started on dry feed and water as soon as possible. Have fresh lamb creep feed (20 percent protein) available to these lambs at one week of age.

Many methods are used to graft orphan lambs to other ewes. The largest, most aggressive lamb is usually the best candidate to graft. Grafting works best when the lambs to be grafted are similar in age to the ewes' own lambs. Grafting a triplet lamb to a ewe with a single is the usual case. The grafting process should be initiated as soon after birth as possible. The longer the ewe and her lambs are together, the stronger the bond to each other becomes. Older lambs are difficult to graft not only due to rejection by the adopting ewe, but also rejection of the ewe by the orphan lamb. 

To get a ewe to accept an orphan lamb, the ewe must think the lamb is her own. Some ewes are easier to fool than others. If grafting to a ewe that has just given birth to her own lamb, rub the orphan lamb in the birthing fluids and afterbirth to give the orphan lamb the smell of her own lamb. Another method involves a stocking that is worn by the adoptive ewe's own lamb for a day or two, and then placed on the orphan lamb. In all cases, place the ewe's head in a stanchion so she can eat and drink but not turn to smell and fight the lambs. This forces the ewe to allow the orphan lamb to nurse. The length of time required for successful grafting varies. Over a period of three to seven days, most ewes will accept the new lamb. Ewes with grafted lambs should be monitored closely once they are turned out.