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Kirstie

Scour in Lambs

I am trying my absolute best here with lambs, I have one that had scour and has since passed away and I have another that is going that way despite everything I have done. I wondered if anyone had any other ways they managed to stop scour, so far I have treated with Halt scour, given a jag of tetramycin and have given electrolytes, any other ideas, I hate losing lambs and was even going to resort to using milk of magnesia but didn't know whether this would have any effect. The one that passed away was 5 days and the other that is going that way is 10 days. I am feeding Denkavit in the correct amounts and also they have access to lamb pellets, fresh water and good hay. I do have 13 others which are doing extremely well but they are much older.


All you orphan lamb experts come out and give me some tips please. Thanks Confused
Bugs

Hello Kirstie and welcome to the site, I'm sorry it's such a sad thing that's brought you here. Having a quick look at who is online our lambing experts (Alison and Rob R spring to mind, but there are others, I know) aren't about at the moment, so I'd really recommend you pop in to the forums on River Cottage as well, to cover all bases in this urgent matter.

http://forum.rivercottage.net/ - they have an "other livestock" forum you could try. You could also try Country Smallholding's bulletin boards as well.

I'm sorry I can't help myself but hope you'll let us know how you get on. Very best of luck and do let us know what happens.
alison

Unfortunately it sounds like you have done everything you can. Unfortunately some lambs will die, for no apparent reason. It sounds like you are doing everything you can. Does it have a temperature. Is it drinking plenty of water.
Kirstie

Thanks Bugs. Thanks Alison, no their temperature is normal, I was still trying to feed it with the denkavit, should I feed water then, would this be preferable?

I was hoping there was an old shepherds remedy somewhere that may help this. Im glad I have tried everything though as I am relatively new to this.
Rob R

Thanks Bugs for drawing my attention to this.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact cause here, as there are so many variables that may cause lambs to scour, including primary infections (ie directly responsible for the scouring), secondary infections (whereby the scouring comes as a result of a suppressed immune system through an unrelated organism) or direct dietary problems. It might also be useful to know how exactly they are passing away, ie sudden death, gradually wasting away, etc. Did you get chance to treat them before death, what did you do & in which order? As, with young lambs, the procedure is just as important as the treatment.

If they are scouring, they must be fed just electrolytes to rehydrate & replenish essential elements, and stop the scouring. Then move back onto the lamb milk gradually, feeding less, more often. Make sure cleanliness is absolute, as one of the most likely source of orphans scouring is from poor hygiene with the equipment, preparation area & feeding area. The other most likely source is incorrect feeding temperature. There are no real 'shepherd's ways' of treating young lambs, as there is so much work been done on the subject that most shepherd's advice has been explained in veterinary science.
organic john

this is a quick question for rob
could it be that the last two lamb kirstie has got never got colosterum so have not gained the natural imunites ???

i am no expert just like to learn more ?
Kirstie

Thanks RobR. The order in which I treated them is as follows, first I gave 1ml of Halt Scour which was the recommended dose, then I gave them a jag of Tetramycin, when the scour was still apparent then i gave electrolytes and kept them warm.

I was also given some advice to give them glucose and also 5ml of Live yoghurt, I wasn't sure whether this was correct but I had tried everything else.

Hygiene wise I sterilise everything, the lambs are also in a clean environment and fresh straw every day.

They basically waste away and eventually stop feeding. There have been no sudden deaths, it is a terrible thing to watch as sometimes you think you are winning and the next day you are back to square one.

And also I use a thermometer to check the correct feeding temperature, I am always worried that it is too hot or too cold so decided this would be the best method.

I do have thirteen other orphan lambs which are extremely healthy so I would hope I am doing things correctly, it is the first time we have had so many as previously it was one or two.
Guest

organic john wrote:
this is a quick question for rob
could it be that the last two lamb kirstie has got never got colosterum so have not gained the natural imunites ???

i am no expert just like to learn more ?


That is a very good point John, and one that I had forgotten to mention. They may have not had any, not enough or colostrum just too late in life (post 6 hours), which would leave them more prone to natural infections- always a problem with orphans.

Another is that of the formulation of either the milk replacer &/or the pelleted feed, as either or both could be too rich for the animal in some cases.

Kirstie- your rearing regime sounds excellent, so I wouldn't expect there to be any problems there (though only you can spot any potential areas to be improved upon). As John pointed out, it may well be that these lambs were more vulnerable through a loack of colostrum at birth, and there may have been nothing you could do.

Generally speaking, where you have sudden death, it is more likely to be either colstridial infection (check that lambs receive adequate feeds of mothers, other sheep, goats, or commercially prepared colostrum in the first six hours. If you are not sure, it is best to feed colostrum by stomach tube, and some commercial units do this as routine. And, check that the pre-lambing booster has been administered correctly to either the mother or the colostrum donor) or viral problems (get the vet involved if you suspect one of these, as it will spread quickly through all vulnerable animals). Longer term wasting followed by death is more likely to be due to inadequacy in the rearing regime or low level infection and/or antibiotic resistance.

Bearing this in mind though, when treating lambs, although a timely antibiotic injection may save a life, it very much depends on the causing factor. Antibiotic use in farm animals is a very hot topic & one I think very important. We are seeing much more antibiotic resistance, which is increasing faster than the development of new drugs, mainly caused by the routine & mis-use of antibiotics. If you have been perscribed antibiotics by the vet, he/she should have already told you this, but for those who have yet to encounter the use of antibiotics, I'll mention it:

Firstly, antibiotics will only work against bacteria, and certain types have a limited range. The most useful antibiotics are those which are target specific, as they are highly effective against the pathogen you are treating, but this relies on being able to identify the agent responsible, and if an unknown secondary infection is present, their efficacy may be low. Antiviral drugs are generally very expensive & agent specific, and therefore not routinely used.

The broad spectrum antibiotics are the ones that have really caused the problems with resistance we have in the world. They have been routinely used to 'guard' against infection for nearly 60 years. Used correctly, they are perfectly safe, but under dosing & cutting short courses of medication allows the pathogens to develop immunity. Giving a single injection, rather than a course of 4 or 5 days gives the pathogen enough to suppress its activity, but by not killing it, will allow it to mutate & develop resistance.

Anyway, back to Kirstie's problem- I would address the nutritional problem first with a scouring lamb. They can scour slightly due to diet, low level stress & other factors, but where it becomes a problem, they will also start to look unthrifty, dehydrated & will show other symptoms where scour is adversely affecting their health. This is the order I would follow:

1. Remove the potential cause of the scouring, i.e. immediately stop feeding milk or milk substitute & formulated rations.

2. Address the dehydration problem by administering electrolyte solution, and ensuring they have free access to water & good quality hay. I'm not sure exactly what Halt scour is, but if it is a antibiotic based preparation, there is some debate as to the effectiveness of such things & their contribution to resistance. However, if it is nutritionally based, this is a good point to use it.

3. If the animal is also suffering from hypothermia, it must be warmed and then fed. This is particularly important in cases of very young lambs that have not received enough colostrum and/or milk, as opposed to cases of scouring, where warming first causes an increase in the metabolism of the animal & the animal dies because of a lack of dietary energy. Hypothermia is a coping mechanism designed to actually increase the animal's chance of life, and to put it another way- make sure you have fuel before you try starting the engine!

4. In most cases this will clear up the problem, but if the animal continues to scour or is showing other signs of ill health, you may want to try a broad spectrum antibiotic, providing you are sure it is a bacterial problem & that the course of injections is followed & weight dosage directions measured accurately. If you are unsure, this is a good point to ask veterinary advice, particularly where several lambs are succumbing to scour.

Inevitably, you will lose some, particularly where there has been a lack of colostrum in their first 6 hours of life, as long as you can satisfy yourself that you have done everything you could, you just have to accept it, if not, you have to put it down to experience & learn for next time.

I hope I've covered everything, but I'm sure someone else can add the benefit of their experience. Smile
Rob R

Wow, that was so long, I got signed out while writing it Embarassed
organic john

are all these injections nessersary ??

and what is the pre lamb booster ??

i dont inject any of my sheep with anything the only chemical i use is a dose of wormer 2 times a year when the risk is hi

i dont have any problems with my ewes or tups so is it needed ??

and am i breacking the law by not giving my sheep all these drugs??

hope that all makes sence cheers
Kirstie

Thanks Guest, there are some good points there to help me should I encounter this again, unfortunately I did not manage to save the X suffolk that was soldiering on despite all odds.

I receive the lambs outside the 6 hour period and usually ask if they have had colustrum and find out as much information as I can, however the two lambs in question were left on the doorstep! Therefore I had no real information about them at all, we have thirteen others that are thriving and have no sign of scour at all.

Halt scour is a preperation i purchased from the vet, this is use for lambs that have had not had the benefit of colustrum to prevent them and alleviate scour, have to say from the experience I have had with this then I am not very impressed.

Thank you also for commenting on my rearing regime, it does mean a lot as this is the first time I have had more than a couple to raise and I am still in the learning process but evidently knew what I was getting into prior to receiving the lambs. I am also rearing twenty calves as well...another learning process but no problems as yet.

Im hoping I wont have this problem again but I believe that it could be down to the lack of colustrum rather than anything else.

John, I also believe in rearing all my animals as naturally as possible however there are some guidelines that I try to work to in treating for worms, parasites, fluke etc. If you have no problems with your sheep then I would personally carry on as you are doing, but you are probably better of taking advice from the experts.

Many thanks for all your help

Many thanks all for your help.
Rob R

organic john wrote:
are all these injections nessersary ??

and what is the pre lamb booster ??

i dont inject any of my sheep with anything the only chemical i use is a dose of wormer 2 times a year when the risk is hi

i dont have any problems with my ewes or tups so is it needed ??

and am i breacking the law by not giving my sheep all these drugs??

hope that all makes sence cheers


No injection is absolutely necessary, but vaccines are one thing that is advisable under organic systems (they work on helping the the animal to heal itself, as opposed to 'treating' it), and particularly with sheep against clostridial disease, as clostridia are so prevalent in the environment, and are capapable of causing such sudden death, that prevention is far more practical. The pre-lambing booster is the annual injection of clostridial (possibly with added pasteurella) vaccine in the 4-6 weeks before lambing to ensure that the ewe passes maximum levels of antibodies onto their lambs via the colostrum, to get them through the first six weeks before the lambs receive their own injection.

Antibiotics on the other hand are very useful tools in treating disease, but their mis-use in preventing disease (and their use as growth promoters) has increased the levels of resistance so much that the problem is not only affecting certain animal pathogens, but it is an increasing problem in human medicine.

You're certainly not breaking the law by not using drugs- far more likely that you would be breaking the law if you were not fully aware of the law surrounding drug recording, storage & use.

You have to be careful when listening to advice from 'experts' in the drug industry, as there are not very many who do not have a vested interest in using a particular product. Even much of the research is funded by drug companies, which is both a plus & a negative point. On the one hand you can get a lot of free information about disease problems, but on the other hand, they will then tend to steer you towards using their own product (naturally). I keep up to date with the latest in animal health through the Moredun Foundation

I'd be interested to know, John, if you experience any problems with external parasites, particularly blowfly, in your sheep under an organic regime?
organic john

i have only lost 3 sheep to fly / maggot in the 2 1/2 years ive been here but have had 5 or 6 cases of it

it has only tended to be a problem when the sheep are in the woodland area so try to move them off befor the summer

the only other thing that i get is worms and will dose twice a year as needed and try to varey the wormer product with every new bottle

hope that all made sence and look forward to any more advice

thanks john
Gervase

Hopefully the problem's now clear, but if it hasn't, have you considered that it could be a colstridium inection?
Lamb dystentery is caused by C. welchii, and results in severe scouring and early death. Unfortunately it's endemic in some flocks.
It can be prevented, however, by vaccinating the ewes before their first tupping and then anually some two weeks before lambing. The immunity is transferred to the lambs through the colostrum.
Rob R

Gervase wrote:
Hopefully the problem's now clear, but if it hasn't, have you considered that it could be a colstridium inection?
Lamb dystentery is caused by C. welchii, and results in severe scouring and early death. Unfortunately it's endemic in some flocks.
It can be prevented, however, by vaccinating the ewes before their first tupping and then anually some two weeks before lambing. The immunity is transferred to the lambs through the colostrum.


We had covered that option, but the trouble is that if you are rearing lambs that have not received adequate colostrum in the first few hours of life, then they won't have gained the passive immunity (which sounded a very likely possibility in this case). The fact that the Clostridium species exists so abundantly in the natural environment (particularly in soil), and the sheep's apparent susceptibility to it (also the commonest sysptoms of colstridia in a flock is sudden death), is what makes vaccination so important in flock health programmes.
Kirstie

Thank you all for the information and tips, much appreciated, we unfortunately lost two lambs in total, but I have successfully managed to rear twelve lambs and they are extremely healthy, I was rearing these to go to market but unfortunately have become too attached to them, so I am going to breed from them and their offspring will be going to market (providing I dont have to hand rear them). Wink
Gervase

To refresh, we've just had a ewe lamb scouring quite prolifically (like one of those mustard dispensers you get on burger stalls!) and our local sheep guru reckons that it wa just greed - a single lamb getting too much milk from a yearling ewe with udders the size of Belgium.
Thankfully the problem seems to have cleared up now.
Little sods, though - they'll always find a new way to worry you!
On general sheep welfare, I found a very useful pdf guide published by the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland here.
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