I)  Hypothermia in Newborn Lambs


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

1.      Lambs from ewes in poor condition

2.      Lambs from very old & very young ewes

3.      Twins & especially triplets

4.      Very small lambs

5.      Lambs which are limp & weak at birth


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


Times Of High Risk


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


Ten hours to three days:  Starvation leads to a drop in heat production & 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.


     If temperature is:  39 –  40oC:     Lamb is normal

                                     37 – 39oC:  Lamb is at risk. Dry its coat, provide shelter & feed it. Check       temperature after 30 mins. to ensure it is rising & not falling.

                                     37oC or less:   Lamb is in danger. Resuscitate.



  1. Dry the lamb.  This reduces heat loss.


  1. Warm the lamb.  Place in warm air at 40 – 45oC. Lambs aged 5 hours or more have a greater chance of recovery if they receive an injection of dextrose BEFORE they are warmed 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:

a)      An intra-peritoneal (intra-abdominal) injection of 10mls/kg of (preferably warmed) sterile 20% Dextrose. Hold the lamb by its front legs or sit it on its backside between your legs or it can simply be lying on its side & using a 60ml syringe & 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 - perhaps spray the area with iodine). Note – Dextrose is now available in a 20% strength. If using up any of the old 40% strength this must be diluted half & half with boiled tap water.


b)      Or a subcutaneous injection of 30mls/kg of preferably warmed Dextrose Saline (not 20% Dextrose.) Inject over the ribs on both sides & massage in well.


Note:  The intra-peritoneal route (a) gives the better results as it works quicker. It is best done by the shepherd immediately out in the paddock rather than delay the procedure until back at the lamb warmer.


3. Recovery.  When the lambs temperature has reached 38oC 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 & 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) & keep it in a small pen maintained at about 20oC by means of a lamp. If the lambs temperature falls again return it to the warm air at 40 – 45oC & keep it there until it is stronger.


3.      It is important to ensure that the lamb is well fed after resuscitation & that it does not become hypothermic again.


Alternative Use For The Technique

As well as being used to revive totally collapsed lambs as described above, some farmers have been using it more as a preventative. If on the daily rounds they see a ewe with a set of twins & one of the twins is “looking dodgy” but not yet actually collapsed, they inject the suspect looking twin with dextrose as described above but leave it there. This results in reduced losses of the weaker lamb in a set of multiples.



II)  Obtaining Colostrum & Supplementary Feeding Of Lambs


·      Lambs require more colostrum than previously thought & to be effective for disease prevention it needs to be given before 12 hours of age. A 3kg lamb needs 600ml daily, a 5kg lamb 1500ml.  Well fed ewes with one lamb have enough colostrum for a second lamb.


·      Colostrum can easily be taken from ewes.  Inject 10-15i.u. (1–1.5ml) oxytocin (obtainable from the clinic) and start milking in three minutes.  Milk standing up into a cup, transfer into a larger container, (outside kicking range).


·      Ewes without lambs can be milked (after oxytocin injection) at 1 hour, 10 hours and 18 hours after parturition.


·      Colostrum can be stored in plastic or glass containers in the deep freeze for up to a year.  If refrigerated it should be used within 24 hours.  It should be fed warm, at 37oC.


·      There are now available dried colostrum products, eg Colozen which provide antibodies against the common young lamb diseases & are a satisfactory alternative to ewe colostrum & preferable to using cow colostrum.


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 to 5 times daily for the first day.


·      Cow colostrum may be used.  If practicable, donor cows could be injected with Ultravac 5 in 1 vaccine – 2ml at 8 weeks and 4 weeks prior to calving to provide a better immune coverage from the colostrum. 


·      This can be stored as for ewe colostrum and used as required.


·      The nutrient level in cow colostrum is less than in ewes so increase the feeding volume by 20% to 40%.


·      Do not feed cow colostrum for more than two days.


·      Collect all colostrum within 24 hours of parturition.


·      Add 1:20 vegetable oil to pooled cow colostrum just before use.





III)  How To Save Newborn Lambs That Won’t Breathe Although The Heart Is Beating


·      The trick is to inflate the lungs, which can be tricky.  Blowing down the nostrils and mouth merely inflates the stomach while passing a tube into the trachea is well nigh impossible.


·      This is what you do:  Pass a normal lamb stomach tube through the mouth and into the oesophagus - it always seems to go in without any trouble and can easily be seen if the lamb is lying on its right side.


·      Then pinch the oesophagus with finger and thumb of the right hand just distal to the end of the stomach tube, withdraw the tube slightly, compress the lamb’s muzzle with the left hand (to shut off air escaping) & blow down the stomach tube quite hard. 


·      The air can’t go down the oesophagus because it is occluded so it goes back up past the stomach tube and down through the larynx into the trachea and into the lungs.  The chest should rise.  Then relax the grip on the muzzle to allow expiraration.


·       This process may have to be repeated several times until spontaneous breathing commences.


It Works With Calves Too

·      The principle is the same with calves but an extra pair of hands is needed, a larger tube and a more enthusiastic blower is required to fill the bigger lungs of the calf.



IV)  Lamb Revival Kit



·        Thermometer


·        Dextrose 20% or alternatively Dextrose Saline (NaCl .18% +Glucose 4%)


·        Needles 18x3/8 or 18x ½


·        Lamb stomach tube


·        Colozen


·        60ml syringe


·        Heat lamp


·        Lamb bottle & teat


·        Disinfectant (Vetacide)


·        Iodine spray for navels










John A. Smart  B.V.Sc