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Sudden Death in 3 month old Lamb?

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  • Sudden Death in 3 month old Lamb?

    Hello. While my husband and I were out of town this past weekend, one of our new CA Red ewe lambs was found dead by our care giver. The details are kind of sketchy and we're confused by how this lamb ended up dead.

    What we know is that she'd had diarrhea earlier in the week from a food change (mill was out of normal). We gave her Pepto and she seemed perfectly fine. Eating, drinking and walking around like normal and had been very healthy other than this little bit of diarrhea. We left town Friday morning.

    Our pet sitter said she was fine Friday - acting like the picture of health. Said she found her Saturday evening lying in the pen, dead. No sign of trauma and the lamb pen is a pen within a pasture. It is surrounded by a 4' 3 board fence with small mesh facing and a donkey lives in the outside pen. She has shelter and lives with other lambs. The others are fine.

    She was on a limited fresh grass in her pen, full access to high quality coastal hay and daily lamb pellets. We have not seen unusual foliage or fungus. No chemicals in the area.

    It's a mystery.
    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." -Henry Ford

  • #2
    could be "anything"...I might consider performing a necropsy. Suddenly "dead" livestock worries me, personally..you want to make sure it;s nothing "contagious". could it be nothing..yeah..and as livestock producers, you will loose some..but because my herds are so small, one loss for me is a "Big deal"

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    • #3
      Scours can kill pretty fast. I'm sorry.
      Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
      Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
      -Rudyard Kipling

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      • #4
        Pulpy kidney, perhaps? (C. perfringens Type D)
        "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

        ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

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        • #5
          Sheep suffer more heat stress than horses or other animals. The combination of diarrhea and heat stress could have been the culprit. I don't know what your weather has been like, but in very hot conditions lambs can develop what is called a "mechanical pneumonia" from rapid breathing/panting.

          You also might want to check your other lambs closely for any signs of internal parasites. Check the FAMACHA (eyelid) scores, look for bottlejaw, etc. Parasite infestation and anemia can catch up with and kill lambs very, very quickly, unlike horses where parasite issues are usually a long term type issue. Given that I think your area has had a wet spring this might be a possibility. (Wet weather is very conducive to parasite problems.) Also, bloat is another thing that can kill sheep very quickly in wet weather. I've never seen it happen, but sheep can also choke on pelleted feed and that could be another theoretical cause.

          There is also the possibility that while you were away someone fed your lambs something inappropriate--sheep can't tolerate horse feed due to the copper levels and they also can suffer serious digestive consequences from gorging on inappropriate things. Also, identifying sick sheep is not easy for someone who doesn't know sheep, your housesitter may not have been able to tell if one was sick.

          You also mentioned that this was a "new" lamb...is it possible that the animal was overly stressed or ill from the move?

          I apologize for my lengthy, speculative post and I hope that it was just some freak thing and that the rest of your lambs are fine!

          Sorry for your loss. California Reds are lovely!
          www.plainfieldfarmky.com

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thank you everyone for your replies!

            This was a new lamb in that she had been with us 2 weeks and was born and raised literally over a hill from our farm. The weather was in the 80s and humid, but I can only go off of the weather sites rather than give a "feels like" answer. Unfortunately the lamb was left covered in a plastic wheel barrel over days and was quite nasty when we arrived home.

            From what I've read, bloat should be countered by her hay diet. The roughage activates a belching mechanism. Is that not the case? Since the caregiver said she was eating hay...?

            I can't guarantee that she was fed only lamb food or that she had water the whole time as I wasn't there (I hope so).

            We checked for parasites in the eyelid and all but one seem to have very healthy color. We wormed with a broad spectrum wormer and will continue to monitor.

            Ghazzu, I'll have to look up pulpy kidney. I've not heard of that before and it does sound awful!
            "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." -Henry Ford

            Comment


            • #7
              Clostridia

              I am very sorry. It is so frustrating to loose an animal. Clostridia (like Ghazzu mentioned) would certainly be a good possibility. I have lost a few alpacas cria and lambs to it over the years. I try to necropsy whenever I have an unexpected death, although sometimes the necropsy doesn't offer any answers which can be frustrating.

              Clostridia often hits very quickly and can end up with diarrhea and a dead baby quickly. Stress often causes it to rear its ugly head- so weaning, bad weather or any other stress can bring it up.

              I have since started vaccinating with CDT(I use coxevin 8 which protects against a few more strains than the typical CDT vaccine) very early before I start offering creep feed and I have been lucky that seems to have stopped my outbreaks.

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              • #8
                Yes, it would be strange for a sheep to bloat while on a hay/partial hay diet.

                Also, I don't know how many sheep you have or if you breed them or not so maybe this would be overkill for you but there are two books by an author called Laura Lawson that are very good. One is "Managing Your Ewe" and the other is "Lamb Problems."
                www.plainfieldfarmky.com

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                • #9
                  Worms will kill them fast.
                  Babies are a lot more likely to die from worms FAST than adults are. Do you worm? With what? How often? Do you know the worms aren't resistant to your wormer? How do you know the eye color was good? Do you have the Famacha chart to compare to? I'd get one and use that to compare to. I've been fooled before.

                  What about a selenium deficiniency/white muscle disease? That usually doesn't kill them fast, but i've never had a lamb get it. One of my adult ewes was fine this weekend and then Monday wouldn't/couldn't get up. I've been nursing her back for 3 days. She can now get up without pain and put up a fight when I gave her the selenium/vit e dose tonight - good thing.
                  Fresh, Frozen & ISO Warmblood Breedings FB Group

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                  • #10
                    Can your donkey reach over the lamb pen and touch any of the lambs? If so, your donkey may have been the culprit- we had a donkey once who would pick lambs up with his teeth and then shake them. he broke the necks on 2 of them before we figured out what he was doing and we got rid of him. If the sick lamb couldn't move fast enough to get out of his way, he could have gotten her and shaken her.

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                    • #11
                      Diarrhea can be a sign of worm infestation and agreed, it can kill quickly.
                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

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