26 January 1996

Taking tube can be quickest life-saver

ONE of the simplest, safest and quickest ways to feed chilled lambs is via a stomach tube. So says David Henderson of the Moredun Research Institute.

"Chilled lambs over five hours old are likely to have low blood sugar levels and must not be warmed before receiving an energy supply as this could induce a hypoglycaemic fit," he says.

Before stomach tubing Mr Henderson advises checking the lamb is fully conscious by ensuring it can hold up its head. If not, the likelihood of the tube entering its wind pipe is increased and these lambs are unable to digest food properly. Energy must then be delivered via a glucose injection.

"To stomach tube fill a clean 50ml or 60ml disposable syringe with colostrum. Support the lambs head, stretching its neck slightly," says Dr Henderson. "Put a sterilised stomach tube into the side of the lambs mouth and slowly feed it down the throat allowing time for it to swallow the tube.

"Attach a full syringe to the tube and empty it to a slow count of 20. Exchange the syringe for a full one until 50ml/kg body weight is delivered," says Mr Henderson.

If under five hours old, lambs with a temperature below 37C should first be dried, put into a warming box until their temperature reaches 37C and then fed.

Unfit lambs, or those rejected by the ewe, will need to be fed at least three times a day at this rate until they are fit.

Colostrum cannot be fed to lambs suffering from watery mouth or other infective diarrheas because they cannot digest milk or colostrum. In these cases stomach tubing can be useful to deliver electrolytes – as prescribed by a vet – which are essential to replace lost fluids.

"To prevent the spread of infection all tubes and syringes must be sterilised either with dairy detergent or by boiling and left in a suitable solution, such as Milton fluid, prior to use," he urges.

&#8226 Never warm chilled lambs prior to giving them an energy supply.

&#8226 Ensure lamb is fully conscious before tubing it.

&#8226 If lambs cough, roll their eyes or bleat when feeding the tube into the stomach, chances are the tube has entered the windpipe.

&#8226 When fully and correctly inserted 5cm to 7.5cm (2in to 3in) of stomach tube will stick out from the mouth.

&#8226 Colostrum should be supplied at a rate of 50ml per kg bodyweight.

&#8226 The smaller the lamb the more frequent the feed.

&#8226 Feed electrolytes, rather than colostrum, to lambs suffering from watery mouth or other infective diarrheas.

&#8226 Sterilise all tubes and syringes prior to use.

Poll Dorset x Texel lambs will start to leave Blackbridge Farm, Morebath, Devon, in three weeks time for Jaspers Abattoir, near Launceton, Cornwall. Most of Wiston and Monica Bakers 200 ewes lambed from Nov 23 to Dec 14 and achieved 150% lambing percentage Last seasons lambs averaged £55 a head, with most classifying 3L and grading Eand U. Any ewes which did not take to the ram in May are due to lamb in February.