Managing Cold and Chilled Lamb: A Guide for Quality Preservation
The Shepherd’s Quick Action Guide
In the shepherd’s kingdom, time is running out when to suspect an infant or lamb less than a week old with a cold, chills, or hypothermia. The distinction between these conditions is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment.
However, not everyone has a rectal thermometer handy for a quick diagnosis. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the visible symptoms and their potential source, as well as the necessary interventions. Although I am not a veterinarian, I am a farmer who has gathered knowledge through both personal experience and veterinary advice. Always seek a veterinarian’s advice when dealing with sick animals, if possible.
Image Credit: Freepik
Decoding the symptoms:
Cold, chilled or cooled down
Hypothermia, characterized by a dangerously low body temperature, is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. The easiest way to make a diagnosis is to use a rectal thermometer. If the sheep’s temperature is below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia is life-threatening, requiring immediate intervention to avoid coma and death.
However, what if a thermometer is missing? Read on to discern the observable symptoms, their causes, and potential remedies.
When a sheep is cold but can move
If the lamb is shivering when it is able to stand and walk, it may not be a problem with hypothermia, but the lamb may actually feel cold or cold
Guide the lamb to the mother’s nipple if it can stand and walk. Check the inside of the sheep’s mouth and the sucking reflex. A baby lamb that can stand and walk can feed on its own, but may need help reaching for the nipple and holding the lamb. Place a sheet of glass, if the lamb is still wet from birth, dry it gently with a clean towel.
However, if the lamb is hunched over, like it’s trying to curl up, it’s likely cold and may need a warmer environment. Such behaviour usually occurs in sheep that are slightly older, exceed the initial moisture content at birth, and are well supplied with colostrum. Sudden environmental changes, such as drafts, can trigger this response. If the sheep is too cold and stooped, then it is necessary to move it to a warm space. You should see a quick improvement as the heat returns.
For lambs exhibiting this behaviour, regular checks are required, approximately every 20 minutes, after the intervention. It is essential to ensure that the lamb warms up gradually after feeding, especially given the risk of further chilling.
When a frozen sheep cannot stand or walk
A sheep that is shivering but unable to walk or stand means a cold sheep is about to hypothermia. Quick action is paramount. Wrap the sheep in a blanket, protect it from contact, and move it indoors or to a warm place with a temperature of about 70 degrees. Periodically check the suckling reflex, feed the baby when possible, whether through the mother, artificial milk substitute or colostrum.
Once warm enough to stand and walk, place the lamb in the barn with its mother. Watch it as it regains its vitality, becomes more vocal and active.
Image Credit: Freepik Sheep
Dealing with a hypothermic sheep:
A sheep that is cold to the touch and does not shiver, especially when the body temperature is low, is likely to develop hypothermia. Calm is key, but immediate action can still save the lamb.
Be careful when reheating lamb; you have to do it slowly. Avoid harsh scrubs, heat lamps or hair dryers as these can lead to shock or heart failure. Instead, bring the sheep indoors and protect it from cold surfaces with blankets or towels.
Prioritize treating hypoglycaemia, which often accompanies hypothermia. Administer sterile dextrose through an IP injection, if trained. Alternatively, place a small amount of honey or maple syrup under the lamb’s tongue and on its gums to introduce sugar. Offer oral rehydration products or sugary sports drinks, and observe the lamb’s behavior.
As the lamb warms and its body temperature rises, shivering might resume, indicating recovery. Ensure it can suckle, fostering colostrum or milk intake to sustain energy levels. Return the lamb to its mother once stable, unless she rejects it.
Unravelling the Starvation-Hypothermia Cycle
Understanding the connection between starvation and hypothermia is vital. Starvation can trigger low body temperature as lambs lack energy for warmth. This leads to reduced mobility, exacerbating hunger and cold. Shivering drains energy, perpetuating the cycle. Addressing one without considering the other is rarely effective.
Caring for Newborn Lambs: Observing and Acting
Vigilance and intuition serve as invaluable tools during a lamb’s early hours. Trust your judgment; if something seems awry, it probably is. Remember the adage, “The faster you go, the more behind you get.” Prioritize swift yet careful action, relying on observation and instinct to match symptoms with appropriate interventions.
In the face of emergencies, staying composed and purposeful can be your guiding light. From identifying symptoms to administering timely care, your efforts can rescue healthy newborns from distress. In the end, nurturing these vulnerable lives encapsulates the heart of shepherding.