Normally after lambing or kidding, a ewe or nanny will expel the afterbirth or placenta within an hour or two.
But sometimes the placenta can be stubborn about being released during the cleansing phase of lambing or kidding.
Normally The Placenta and All After Birth Is Expelled Within A Couple Of Hours After Lambing or Kidding
In sheep and goats a placenta that does not evacuate the uterus after about 12 hours or so is known as a retained placenta.
There are several possible reasons for retained placenta in small ruminants. Too much grain, low quality hay, a overlarge lamb or kid; lack of exercise, nutritional deficiencies, premature birth, stillbirth, abortion and infection are all associated with retained placenta in livestock.
Retained placenta is usually no cause for alarm as long as a few simple guidelines are followed.
Normal Sheep Placenta Shed Shortly After Lambing
It’s is safest not to try to manually remove the placenta.
Often the placenta is completely retained and there is no sign of it.
But sometimes the retained placenta will be seen hanging out of the vulva. After 12 hours or so, little harm will be done by very gentlytesting the adhesiveness of the placenta. In such cases if the placenta doesn’t readily flop out of the ewe or nanny after a very slight tug – leave it alone.
What is important to remember is that the placenta is attached to the uterine wall by disk-shaped cotyledons. If you try to pull the placenta away from the uterus before it is ready to be shed, you can injure the ewe or doe and run the risk of adversely affecting her future pregnancies.
Pulling on the placenta also increases the chances for bleeding and infection.
The best course of action is to prophylactically protect the ewe or nanny with an antibiotic and keep a very watchful eye on her.
In ewes or nannies that have retained their placenta, I use 10- 20cc of injectable penicillin (Penicillin G Procaine – 300,000 units per ml) via a SQ or IM injection every 48 hours until the placenta is released.
Injectable Penicillin G
Most often the placenta is sloughed away within 3 – 5 days and the ewe or nanny will go on with life as if nothing happened.
Border Cheviot Ewe With Lambs
If the nanny or ewe should go off her feed she may need an injection of Dexamethasone as a supportive therapy. Dexamethasone is a synthetic analogue of prednisolone. It has a similar but more potent anti-inflammatory therapeutic action than prednisolone and is available only on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
Gosh it’s cold outside!
Hypothermic lambs and kid goats can become a real problem in this kind of weather.
Throughout much of North America, the record cold is interfering with the health and well-being of many early season neonatal lambs and goat kids. Lambs and goat kids can take quite a bit of cold as long as they are well started, stay dry and get plenty of nourishing milk from their mothers.
But sometimes a new-born lamb or kid will suffer hypothermia because of inadequate mothering, a lack of regular feeding or simply because the lamb overslept and forgot to eat in extremely cold weather.
Hypothermic lambs and kids will die if not attended to immediately.
Hypothermia is the leading cause of pre-weaning lamb and kid goat losses in this country. Many deaths can be prevented with a few simple tools and a basic understanding of how hypothermia kills. Hypothermia is a condition where the core body temperature drops and the body’s vital signs begin to weaken. Heart rate and respiration decreases and the metabolism slows down.
A Mildly Hypothermic Lamb
Past a certain point, the digestive system cannot help a lamb or kid overcome hypothermia. Without energy delivered properly and directly into the core of the body in the form of glucose, brain function is impaired and results in a continuing weakness, confusion, drowsiness, coma and the eventual death of the kid or lamb.
This Hypothermic Lamb Will Die Without an Intraperitoneal Injection of Glucose
What follows below is information you may need to know to save a little life. If you are a new shepherd or goat keeper what I’m going to recommend may scare you. I encourage you to put your fear and apprehensions behind you. Do what you must do. Because if you don’t your hypothermic lamb or kid goat probably will die.
Thermometers and a Keen Eye Save Lives
That’s no hype or exaggeration. Nothing takes the place of good observation in cold weather. A very mild hypothermic lamb or kid goat can often be found before things take a turn for the worse. Mild hypothermic kid goats and lambs will commonly have a characteristic humped up look or will sometimes be off sleeping alone in a corner.
Such lambs and kids can be fed a little extra and warmed up without too much risk. The judicious use of a rectal livestock thermometer can save thousands of little lambs and goat kids. If you don’t own a livestock thermometer you need to get one. A human thermometer will work in a pinch. When I take the temperature of a goat kid or lamb I lay them across my lap. A thermometer is easily inserted with a little spit from me or Vaseline. I keep the thermometer in place for about 3 minutes. I’ve found it helpful to tie a piece of string or dental floss to the end of the thermometer so it doesn’t get “lost” while in service. I’ve never had this happen with a lamb, but it can happen with a big animal.
Normal Temperature for Lambs & Kids
Normal body temperature in healthy lambs and kids is 102 °F- 104°F
Moderate hypothermia is 99°F – 102°F
Severe hypothermia is below 99F° – and your lamb or kid is in serious trouble.
There Are Two Stages of Hypothermia & Two Different Treatments In Lambs or Kids
When treating your lamb or kid for hypothermia you need to understand which treatment is appropriate. Lambs and kids under 5 hours old have a special type of internal body fat that will keep them safe for a few hours depending upon the air temperature. Lambs and kids older than 5 hours have used up the supply of internal fat that they were born with and cannot be treated the same way. If your lamb or kid has a body temperature of 99°F – 102°F and can still hold its head up and suck and is under 5 hours old, warm sheep or goat milk is all you’ll need. About ½ cup fluid (120cc) every 3 or 4 hours by bottle or stomach tube is right for a medium breed of sheep; a little more for large breed sheep. Warm milk replacer works well but is expensive. Should none of those options be available to you, and while it is not ideal for lambs or kids, cow’s milk will work (raw is best) in an emergency. Melt about a tablespoon of butter per ½ cup (120cc) of whole milk or diluted canned evaporated milk. If you do not have butter on hand, find something else that is 100% animal fat – tallow, lard, chicken fat, bacon grease or whatever. No Crisco, vegetable oil or margarine. Make sure the milk is warm before you feed it. About 100° F– 105°F is perfect. If your lamb is fully conscious and can hold its head up, but cannot or will not suck, and its temperature is between 99°F – 102°F you should stomach tube the milk mixture.
Stomach tubing is an easy to learn skill and is a life saver for just about all neonatal farm animals. A thermometer and a stomach tube used correctly will save more neonatal lambs, kids and calves than any other thing I know of. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a basic homesteading skill. To use a stomach tube is really quite simple.
Stomach Tube For Lambs & Kids
Here’s how to do it: You’ll need milk, a Mason jar or pan and a large 60cc syringe with a stomach tube or catheter.
While sitting on a bale of hay or a bucket, lay the lamb across your lap or hold it between your legs. I do this well out of the sight of mamma sheep.
Have the warm milk ready in a Mason jar or pan.
Remove the catheter/tube from the syringe.
Dip the end of the catheter into the warm milk to moisten it. Now insert the tube in the corner of the lamb’s mouth. Gently pass the tube all the way to the stomach. The distance varies but is about 7”-11” in most breeds of sheep. If the tube doesn’t go in but a few inches or the lamb starts to struggle you are probably in the lungs and need to remove the tube and re-insert it. When a feeding tube is properly inserted the lamb will remain relaxed and will not struggle.
Draw a full 60cc syringe full of warm milk. Place the syringe onto the end of the tube. Slowly depress the syringe to a count of 10.
That’s all there is to it. To remove the tube, pinch it tightly between your thumb and forefinger and remove it very quickly. You don’t want any drops of milk to accidentally aspirate into the lungs.
If the lamb or kid cannot hold its head up and its temp is 99° or below or is unconscious DO NOT use a stomach tube or bring the kid or lamb into the house or try to warm it up in any way. You could kill it. You should give an intraperitoneal injection of glucose.
Intraperitoneal Glucose Injection
An intraperitoneal glucose injection is an injection of glucose directly into the abdominal cavity of the lamb or kid. The lamb or kid can no longer create energy via the digestive system. It must have glucose. It is the best way to save the life of a lamb or kid that is older than 5 hours and has a body temperature of 99°F or less. You must give glucose before warming the lamb because the lamb or kid may die from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
If you do not know how to give this injection get your veterinarian to do it or teach you how to.
If you can’t get a veterinarian fast enough here’s what you need to know to do it yourself. Be brave. It is very scary the first time you do this on your own. Just remember your lamb or kid is almost dead and you have nothing to lose and maybe everything to gain.
Here’s How to Do It
The needle size must be a 1” X 19 gauge used with a large syringe. A longer needle could nick internal organs and shorter needle will not reach the space in the peritoneal cavity. A 60 ml syringe works well.
Dextrose For Hypothermic Lambs or Kids
You need to use a sterile 20% glucose solution. You can dilute a 40% or 50% glucose or dextrose with sterile water if necessary.
The rough dosing is as follows:
50 ml for a large lamb or kid
40 ml for a medium lamb or kid
30 ml for small lamb, kid or triplet
If using 50% glucose or dextrose boil the water to sterilize it before mixing. For a large lamb or kid goat, draw up 20 ml of 50% glucose or dextrose into a sterile syringe. Now draw up 30 ml of sterile water.
The water can be very warm – in fact it works better if it is. You want the glucose solution to be slightly above normal body temperature -104°F- 108°F when it is actually injected.
Hotter water keeps the solution from getting too cold by the time you make it up and get back to the barn. I keep the syringe warm in the barn by keeping it under my clothes and close to my body until I’m ready to use it.
The injection site on the lamb is located 1/2″ to the side and 1″ down below the umbilical cord stump.
Be sure to have the warm syringe ready in hand before you pick up the kid or lamb. Hold the lamb or kid up by its forelegs in front of you while you lean against a wall or bales of hay. By holding the kid or lamb in this way the liver and other internal organs are dropped out of the way of the needle.
The lamb or kid probably won’t struggle much or at all. But you do need the lamb to be completely limp before you inject the glucose. Wait a few minutes if you have to for the kid or lamb to go limp. With an unconscious kid or lamb this isn’t an issue.
To give the injection when alone, first steady yourself firmly against a wall or bales of hay. Take the cap off the needle and insert the needle straight on and directly into the belly aiming slightly towards the tail or butt. Very slowly release the plunger on the syringe. That’s all there is to it.
Now it is safe to slowly warm the lamb or kid back up. The lamb should receive a course of antibiotics for 5 – 7 days. I use a long acting penicillin. But you should consult you veterinarian for the proper type, dosage and his/her recommendations for the appropriate antibiotic in your area.
Bottle jaw is the vernacular term given to pendulous lower jaw swelling in sheep, cattle and goats.
The swelling is a soft tissue edema cause by anemia. It is characteristic in animals that are carrying a heavy load of blood sucking internal parasites – better known as worms.
A Bottle Jaw In A Young Ram
Most often in sheep and gaots, the worms are haemonchus contortus often called “barber pole worms” because of the red and white twisted appearance in large female worms. But other worms, namely ostertagia circumcinta and trichostrongylus colubriformis can also cause a bottle jaw.
What you need to know about bottle jaw is that if you see it in your animals you have a serious problem and must act quickly.
That’s especially true in sheep because most often the first sign of a heavy intestinal parasite load is a sudden death.
A Sudden Death In A Nursing Ewe Due To Barber Pole Worms
In sheep, cattle and goats the symptoms of worms can also include diarrhea, weakness, weight loss or thriftiness. All or none of those symptoms will sometimes also accompany a bottle jaw. The best test for worms
in sheep and goats is the correct use of a FAMACHA card system.
The treatment for most common worms is simple.
First check around to see what wormers work in your local area. Internal parasites can and do develop drug resistance.
Here’s what I do:
First administer a wormer.
Confine the animals for 24 hours after worming so they can pass out the dead worms. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water.
Release the animals onto clean ground or pasture that has had no livestock for at least 2 months.
Repeat again in 10 days.
At present in my area Cydectin or Ivermectin are effective by injection, drench or pour on. I believe both wormers are off label for goats but are still used. Eprinex , Dectomax, Prohibit, Rumatel, Nematel, Strongid, Tramisol and Valbazen are all good wormers but may have drug resistance where you live. There is drug resistance in my area to Panacur and SafeGuard.
Not all wormers are the same so be sure to read the label and pay attention to the milk and meat withdrawal times.
Did you know that the way a pregnant ewe or nanny goat is managed can influence when she will lamb or kid, and how quickly she’ll lamb or kid?
A Group Of Pregnant Border Cheviot Ewes
The time of day that a pregnant ewe or nanny goat is fed can influence when she will lamb or kid and how quickly she’ll lamb or kid.
Sheep and goats tend to lamb 6 hours prior and 6 hours after the time of their grain or main feeding. Knowing this can be of great benefit to those who would prefer to avoid late night or early morning lambing and kidding.
If you prefer lambing and kidding during daylight hours, feed your ewes and nannies around noon. It will result in most lambs and kids (70%) being born between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Also ewes and nannies tend to begin active labor when there is less human activity going on around them.
Human presence can slow down active labor so much that I personally make it a habit to leave the barn when I see an animal in labor.
Without me in the barn a ewe or nanny is able to get on with her business without the stress of the boss constantly watching over her.
The ewe in the picture below has sore feet. Her kneeling stance is typical of either foot scald or foot rot. The ewe to the right of her, who is lying down, also has sore feet.
Kneeling Is Typical For Sheep and Goats With Sore Feet
All foot problems in sheep and in goats should be investigated and treated as soon as possible. There are lots of different reasons for sore feet and foot rot isn’t always necessarily one of them.
But lameness in more than one sheep or goat is a red flag. Two or more limping sheep or goats is cause for an immediate evaluation of the entire flock or herd. Don’t ignore it or waste any time investigating the cause. I treat foot problems the same in both sheep and goats. For the sake of simplicity anything that goes for a sheep – goes for a goat except where noted.
Foot rot is an infectious and very contagious disease in both sheep and goats. Foot rot is caused by the interaction of two different anaerobic bacteria – dichelobacter nodosus and fusobacterium necrophorum.
Foot scald while not as serious as foot rot, can be just as painful and if not treated promptly can lead to foot rot. Foot scald is caused by the opportunistic interaction of fusobacterium necrophorum and another bacteria corynebacterium pyogenes during wet weather or damp conditions.
For the sake of better understanding, we’ll call the different bacteria, Bacteria #1, #2 & #3 for short, and make the words hoof and foot, toe and cleat interchangeable.
Fusobacterium necrophorum (#1) is a normal bacteria from the digestive tract of sheep and other ruminants.It can live up to 10 months in the soil. In wet weather fusobacterium necrophorum (#1) has the opportunity to interact with corynebacterium (#3) to produce foot scald.
Foot scald is an infection of the skin between the toes of the hoof and is the precursor to foot rot. Mud is the perfect vector for the above bacteria, and is easily packed in and squished up between the toes of the hoof when sheep are on wet ground. Keeping sheep on wet ground is a perfect recipe for foot scald even in sheep that are not genetically susceptible. More about genetic susceptibility later.
Once the hoof is compromised with foot scald, dichelobacter nodosus (#2) can begin to invade the foot. Dichelobacter nodosus (#2) produces an enzyme that destroys the connective tissue between the horn (the hard part) and tissue of the foot and allows the migration of bacteria under the horn. Once the bacteria are under the horn of the hoof it reproduces rapidly in the anaerobic environment. The bacteria are protected from air under of the hard covering (horn) of the hoof.
This is one of the reasons foot rot can be difficult to treat. It’s hard to actually get to the bacteria.
In my experience the best way to treat foot rot or foot scald is with isolation, a foot bath, trimming and Liquamycin -LA 200. It’s an injectable oxytetracycline solution. For dairy goats please consult your veterinarian before using LA-200 or discard milk and strictly observed milk withdrawal times.
LA-200 & A Syringe
Here’s what works for me:
First isolate the sheep into 2 groups -the limpers and the non-limpers. The two groups will be treated differently. Set up a bath for the non-limpers and make them walk through it.
Hold the sheep in the foot bath by a gate or hurdle if possible for a couple of minutes or so. After the foot bath move the sheep immediately onto fresh clean, dry ground.
Watch the sheep very carefully over the next week to make sure that none of them are limping even slightly. If you find another limper, move them immediately to the other group.
There are all kinds of products for foot baths, but a mild Clorox solution is what I use and recommend. Chlorine bleach is cheap; I think works best and it is readily available.
The foot bath mix is 10 parts water to 1 part Clorox. If you don’t have a special trough for a foot bath or only have a few sheep, a plastic bucket with the bleach solution will work fine as individual or single hoof foot bath. Just stand each hoof in the Clorox solution for about a minute.
Don’t forget to wash your footwear too. Boots and shoes that have walked over contaminated ground will spread foot rot. That’s why it is so important to change your shoes before you go into the barn or pasture after you have returned from the sale barn, auction or from visiting another farm.
Now back to the limpers. Confine all limpers onto a heavy bedding of fresh clean straw and proceed with the treatments below depending on whether or not you have foot scald or foot rot.
Examine and trim all 4 hooves – not just the lame one. The hoof with foot scald usually looks moist between the cleats (toes) and is slightly reddened. Clean out any packed in debris and wash between the toes. Next apply between the toes, a light coating of LA 200 with a syringe that has had the needle removed.
To fill the syringe, draw the LA 200 up into the syringe with the needle attached and then remove the needle. LA 200 is runny and can be hard to control where it goes. Drip and drizzle the LA 200 over the entire interior wall and skin between the toes. Any place that looks moist or inflamed make sure that it gets well covered. After treatment, keep the sheep on clean dry straw for a week. A difference in limping will probably be noticed within 24 – 36 hours. LA 200 applied directly to the scald is an extremely effective treatment for foot scald.
The hoof with foot rot will have a foul smell. You can’t miss it. The hoof will sometimes look crumbly, soft or will peel away. Sometimes the bulb at the back of the heel will be over soft, white or spongy. Sometimes the hoof will be bloody.
Clean and well trim all 4 hooves. Try and trim the hoof so that a line of white or faint light pink can be seen around the fresh trimmed rim of the hoof. Try not to over trim or the hoof will bleed. Using the same treatment for foot scald, apply LA 200 directly to the foot with a syringe that has had the needle removed.
Next with a clean needle attached to the syringe, give a 10cc IM injection of LA 200, divided into two 5cc doses, into two different injection sites. Be aware that LA 200 is an extremely painful injection -it really burns. Expect bucking, rearing up and general carrying on from your sheep when you give it.
Keep treated foot rot sheep on dry clean bedding for at least 7 -10 days before they are turned out again. Do not let the sheep return to infected pastures or paddocks. Dichelobacter nodosus (#2) can live on pasture for up to 14 – 22 days.
Once the disease mechanisms involved are understood, both foot rot and foot scald can be prevented and eradicated with careful flock management. Genetic Susceptibility
Any breed sheep or goat can end up lame given the right conditions, mismanagement and bacteria. As a rule sheep with black hooves are less prone to foot rot. Fine wool breeds or sheep with white, pink or striped hooves are much more prone to foot problems and don’t do well on wet ground. Polypay, Merino, Dorset, Finn, Rambouillet and Columbia breeds of sheep have given me problems in the past. I think if my farm was drier they would do better for me.
Some individual sheep and Angora goats particularity seem to have a genetic susceptibility to foot rot. I have often wondered if it is not some type of innate immune system problem. I just don’t know. But what I do know is that sheep or goats that show a susceptibility to foot rot or foot scald and don’t respond well to treatment should be culled from the flock or herd and their offspring not kept for breeding.