20 March 1998

Multiple births is health risk

REPORTS of high numbers of multiple lamb births mean producers should be concerned about the increased likelihood of pregnancy toxaemia and small lambs suffering hypothermia.

According to midlands-based sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings, many producers have had very high lambing percentages. "Large numbers of triplet births have caused problems."

MLC sheep scientist Jenny Anderson warns that pregnancy toxaemia can easily occur in multiple-bearing ewes. "Observe them carefully at feeding. Drench ewes which dont eat with double-strength electrolyte solution and propylene glycol or glucose. The electrolytes help ensure rapid uptake of glucose into the body."

Encourage appetite

She advises seeking veterinary advice to minimise ewe loss. "Where a large proportion of ewes get pregnancy toxaemia, the best action may be to turn them out to grass temporarily to encourage them to eat and exercise, retaining an appetite."

Multiple births also increase risk of lamb mortality, she says. "Competition in the womb causes stress, which can lead to small lambs. These are twice as likely to die as large lambs as their body surface is so much greater than their fat reserves that evaporating heat uses up vital energy supplies."

Where lambs are cold and suffering from hypothermia – with a temperature below 37C (98.6F) – she advises warming them before feeding to prevent hypoglycaemic shock. "Feed or stomach tube the lamb after warming, but where it is unconscious or in particularly poor condition injecting 20% glucose into the stomach cavity may be necessary." &#42