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Milk Failure and Lamb Survival

Discussion in 'Birthing, Weaning, and Raising Young Sheep' started by Sheepshape, May 16, 2018.

  1. May 16, 2018
    Sheepshape

    Sheepshape True BYH Addict

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    It's something of a nightmare when a ewe with twins loses her milk when her lambs are about 3-5 weeks old. The lambs really still need milk, but won't have a bottle, and their ability to utilise solid foods is not fully developed until about 8 weeks. This year has seen me struggling with this problem, too.

    Judy is a 3 year old Blue Faced Leicester who had triplets 6-7 weeks ago. All lambs were ewe lambs and evenly sized, so two stayed with mum and I bottle fed the third (Stacey). Stacey has had her moments....bloody diarrhoea (probably coccidia) and chest infection, but is now looking well-filled out. She is now weaned, lively and seems healthy.

    The two lambs who stayed with mum initially looked a lot healthier....bigger, glossier etc. Two weeks ago I thought that they didn't look quite so well, and noted that they were eating some of the ewe food. Judy's udder looked very large, but her lambs didn't appear to be feeding often or reducing the size of her udder.

    When they all came up for worming/fluking/vaccinating I noted that the lambs didn't look so well, were a bit thin and listless. Judy's udder felt rather hard, but not hot, and there was VERY little milk to express. From there on I kept them close at hand and noted the lambs really weren't thriving. No, they would not take a bottle, and they seemed tired and depressed. They then both developed severe scours, so I took Judy and the two lambs into the garden. At that stage, the degree of emaciation was apparent. The thinnest had no muscle to feel in the legs, just skin over bone. I am kicking myself that I hadn't tried to intervene earlier.

    So 5 days on from moving into the garden (after treating for coccidia and giving selenium, cobalt B12), I think the tide has turned. Initially I was feeding high calorie/protein solids with mum in there, but, typical Leicester fashion, she ate the lot whilst pushing her lambs away. Now I am sending mum into the field whilst her lambs take their fill twice daily, so that I know that they are feeding.

    At last I feel I can name the lambs and take pictures of them.....I don't like to do so if I think they won't survive.

    Here's Judy with the 'biggest' lamb, Sally

    Judy and a lamb.jpg


    And now for Sita....the most emaciated lamb still on 4 legs (and I'm thinking she looks slightly better)

    Judy's lamb.jpg

    And from above...... I would have given her a 40% chance of survival at the outset......now I'll give her 60%.

    Judy's lamb (1).jpg

    The lambs now run over when I come into the garden to see what I have for them, and the larger Sally managed a little head toss today.
    Even when I spoke to the vet., he had little else to suggest....saying "They don't do well". But I'm going to keep on trying......I'll take pics. again (all being well!) in a few days.

    What a year....how as many have made it even so far, I do not know.
     
  2. May 16, 2018
    Wehner Homestead

    Wehner Homestead Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    You have had a year of it! Pulling for these two! Glad you are fighting for them. We seem to have that in common. ;)
     
  3. May 18, 2018
    mystang89

    mystang89 True BYH Addict

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    Sorry you had a to go through that but at the same time I'm glad you posted this in case I have a similar issue. What caused the ewe to dry up? Is that something that giving her fenugreek might have helped with?
     
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  4. May 18, 2018
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    Just when you thought all the troubles were behind you! I hope these two make it, they sure have a good sheep Mommy taking care of them!
     
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  5. May 19, 2018
    Sheepshape

    Sheepshape True BYH Addict

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    It's usually when there has been inflammation in ducts in the udder (low grade mastitis) such that the passages become affected by hardening and narrowing, and the milk is unable to get out. It is irreversible and the ewe won't get milk let-down in subsequent years, so her lamb-feeding days are over.

    I had the same problem with a ewe who was my last to lamb in the previous year. Huge udder, no milk for the 2 lambs. The vet gave me oxytocin injections to try (the hormone that lets the milk down), but no joy, so I had to bottle feed them. I reluctantly let her go to market.

    Sometimes a ewe who has not had sufficient food before/ during/just after lambing has little or no milk, but this usually corrects on good feeding.If it doesn't, then she is unlikely to be able to feed in subsequent years. Additionally, some ewes don't seem to have their milk come in straight away. Keeping her in,giving lots of food and water, and giving the lambs bottle feeds for 12 hours or so is often all that's needed (check there's no hard wax plugs in the teats to prevent the milk getting out).

    I'm glad to say the two lambs are looking much better and have good appetites. They are taking extra feed (when I can keep their greedy mum away!)
     
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  6. May 19, 2018
    mystang89

    mystang89 True BYH Addict

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    I'm glad to hear the lambs are doing well. It's good that you have this knowledge to be able to help them but wow. Hearing about this condition really stinks. Do you know what causes it or if there is a way to prevent it? That's basically a death sentence to both the mother and lambs especially if not caught early on.
     
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  7. May 19, 2018
    Sheepshape

    Sheepshape True BYH Addict

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    I think it's a low grade infection, and I don't think there's anything we can do to prevent it from happening....unfortunately! Sheep really do seem to have an enormous amount of things which can go wrong.

    Meanwhile a week on from Death's Door and these two are looking a lot better.

    Judy and lambs after a week (1).jpg

    Judy and lambs after a week.jpg

    In the bottom pic. Sally (the fatter of the two) is on the left and Sita (the one who was painfully thin) on the right. Though they are still pretty skinny, they look altogether different.....more energy, better fleeces, excellent appetites etc. The weather has taken a turn for the better and this is giving them a boost, too.
     
  8. May 19, 2018
    mystang89

    mystang89 True BYH Addict

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    Beautiful sheep you have!
     
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  9. May 19, 2018
    Latestarter

    Latestarter Novice; "Practicing" Animal Husbandry Golden Herd Member

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    You have really been put through the ringer this year. Now that the weather has improved and the green is back, I sure hope things smooth out for you. Glad you were able to save the two little ones. You've lost more than your fair share this year.
     
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  10. May 19, 2018
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    That sucks about the ewe, she is such a pretty girl. :( Farming makes us make some tough decisions, but they have to be made. You can't dither about and be a farmer. :hugs
     
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