Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Back to little lambs.

One of the most time consuming but ultimately satisfying jobs is looking after weak lambs[if they survive of course]. As I have said before it's vital for a lamb to start feeding straight away,any delays and the lamb gets cold very quickly and once it gets cold it becomes too weak to feed so it is something of a vicious circle.

The first job therefore is to gently warm the lamb, firstly by rubbing vigorously with a towel this is often enough to stimulate the lamb to suckle. If the lamb is small or too weak to suckle then I draw off some milk from the ewe into a baby's bottle and try the lamb with that. If that doesn't work then it becomes a litttle more complicated. To warm the lamb from the inside and get rid of the meconium that stops the bowel from emptying I give the lamb an enema, this consists of gently inserting a small rubber tube into the rectum and introducing warm soapy water[about 60ml depending on the size of the lamb] then holding my finger over the rectal opening to keep the soapy water in the lamb until it strains to expel the water and the tarry faeces. Once this is done the lamb then needs some form of energy, as it is too weak to take milk then I give a sterile glucose solution as a subcutaneous injection, about 20ml slowly under the skin in several sites, this is repeated every few hours until the lamb is strong enough to take milk. The lamb is kept under an infra-red lamp close to it's mother while these procedures are being carried out. As I have said before it is important to keep the lamb within sight of it's mother to stop her rejecting the lamb.

In most cases with the above care the lamb is quickly restored to the point were it can suckle unaided. I have to thank a friend for giving me a little booklet entitled "Detecting, Diagnosing and Treating Chilled and Weak lambs by Laura Lawson", this has proved invaluable and has helped me to save many little lambs.

When I have successfully brought a lamb back from near death the bad experiences fade a little and it helps me to deal with them. It makes all the effort worthwhile, of course it doesn't always succeed and occasionally the lamb will die but I know that I have done as much as is possible.

The one thing I have learnt is that with the best will in the world you cannot save all the lambs and sometimes ewes will die, but if I have done my best then I can cope with the losses. If you can't deal with this then you cannot be a farmer.

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Thanks for your lamb care tips. Hopefully we can pull our little lamb through. I too was a scientist (geology oceanography), now am a caregiver for people... and animals, it seems. Best wishes with your book.