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While all lambs are at risk special attention should be paid to:

  1. Lambs from ewes in poor condition
  2. Lambs from very old and very young ewes 
  3. Twins and especially triplets 
  4. Very small lambs 
  5. Lambs which are limp 


To prevent hypothermia developing you may have to provide extra shelter and nourishment for these lambs.

Times of High Risk

Birth to five hours: 
The wet newborn lamb loses heat very rapidly and may quickly become hypothermic. This is more likely to happen in bad weather and when there is no or little shelter. Colostrum helps the lamb through this period by increasing it heat production.

Ten Hours to three days: 
Starvation leads to a drop in heat production and the lamb becomes hypothermic. This can happen even in warm sunny weather.

Detection of Hypothermia

Use a thermometer. Early detection greatly improves a lamb’s chance of recovery.

39 - 40C, Lamb is normal
37 - 39C, Lamb is at risk. Dry its coat and provide shelter and feed it. Check temperature after 30 minutes to ensure it is rising and not falling
37C or less, Lamb is in danger. Resuscitate.

Resuscitation

  1. Dry the lamb. This reduces heat loss. 

  2. Warm the lamb. Place in warm air at 40-45 C. Lambs aged 5 hours or more have a greater chance of recovery if they receive an injection of dextrose BEFORE they are warmed up because they have already used up the store of energy they were born with and warming them when energy stores are exhausted can hasten their death.

The dextrose can be given by: 
An intra-peritoneal (intra-abdominal) injection of 10mls/kg of (preferably warmed) sterile 20% Dextrose. 

NOTE: there is no commercial 20% option available use 40% Dextrose and dilute half and half with sterile water. 

Hold the lamb by its front legs or sit it on its backside between your legs (or it can be lying on its side) and using a 60ml syringe and a short 18G needle (no longer than ½” – a 3/8” one used for vaccinating is ideal) inject into the lambs belly just in front of the navel at a slight angle towards the chest (with as much hygiene as possible).

OR a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection of 30mls/kg of preferably warmed Dextrose Saline (not 20% Dextrose). Inject over the ribs on both sides and massage well. 

NOTE: the intra-peritoneal route gives the better results as it works quicker. 

  1. Recovery: When the lambs temperature has reached 38 C remove from the warm air. Most lambs take 2-4 hours to rewarm but some may take considerably longer.

Care After Resuscitation

  1. Feed the lamb 100-200mls colostrum or milk substitute by stomach tube if necessary. 
  2. Providing the lamb can suck vigorously and can stand, return it to the ewe in a sheltered pen. If the lamb is still weak, feed it by stomach tube (50ml/kg colostrum or milk substitute three times daily) and keep it in a small pen maintained at about 20C by means of a lamp. If the lambs temperature falls again return it to the warm air at 40-45C and keep it there until it is stronger. 
  3. It is important to ensure that the lamb is well fed after resuscitation and that it does not become hypothermic again.

Lamb Feeding

  • Not more than 50ml/kg on each occasion i.e. a small (2.5kg) lamb 150ml, a medium sized lamb (4kg) 200ml and a large lamb (5kg) 250ml
  • Lambs should be fed 4 – 5 times daily for the first day.

Lamb Revival Kit

  • Thermometer 
  • Dextrose 40% with 50% diluted sterile water in syringe or Dextrose saline (NaCl. 18% + Glucose 4%)
  • Needles 18gx3/8 or 18Gx1/2”
  • Lamb Stomach tube
  • 60ml syringe
  • Heat lamp
  • Lamb bottle and teat
  • Disinfectant (stericide)
  • Iodine spray for navels
  • Colostrum powder

About the author

North Canterbury Vets are a mixed practice which deals with dairy cows, beef, sheep, deer, horses and alpacas as well as companion animals. Our team has an ethical focus to assist in developing and growing our clients' businesses and providing quality health care to ensure that their livestock and pets live healthy and productive lives.

Our Clinics

North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.