Hypothermic lambs are linked to poor colostrum intake

Hypothermia is a big killer of lambs on many farms and is directly linked to poor colostrum intake.

When a lamb is suffering from hypothermia, its body temperature will drop below the normal temperature of 39°C. Between 37-39°C, we refer to the lamb as being moderately hypothermic, and this is quite easy to correct.

Below 37°C, the lamb is said to be severely hypothermic and this is more difficult to treat.

It goes without saying that any lamb which becomes severely hypothermic will first have been moderately hypothermic so the earlier you can act, the better the outcome.

Treatment of the moderately hypothermic lamb includes drying the lamb if it is wet, feeding colostrum by stomach tube and moving the ewe plus lamb(s) to a sheltered environment.

The use of artificial heat and separation of the lamb from its mother is usually unnecessary, and can upset the ewe/lamb bond.

When the lamb becomes severely hypothermic, in addition to a decline in body temperature, the lamb will also become deficient in glucose if it is more than five hours old.

Research suggests that if the lamb is warmed up in this state, death from cerebral hypoglycaemia (glucose deficiency in the brain) is most likely.

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Firstly, the glucose deficiency needs to be corrected by the administration of an intraperitoneal glucose injection.


This involves the injection of a 20pc warm glucose solution into the abdomen of the lamb at a rate of 10ml/kg lamb birth weight.

The injection site should be approximately 1cm to the side of the navel and 2cm behind the line of the navel.

When holding the lamb by the front legs, the injection should be administered at a 45° angle, almost aiming for the tail head of the lamb.

A 19-gauge 1-inch needle is used.

Next, you can warm the lamb and this requires the use of artificial heat.

A red lamp is often the best option as it can allow the lamb to remain with the ewe thus preserving the bond.

Irish Independent

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