So we have five orphaned lambs now! The original one, Mischeifa, is going great. He’s grown lots, and is really fit and healthy. The second two lambs we got were named Bobby, and Boris. They were both found off by themselves on different days, and quite weak. Not sure why – we have had a few sets of triplets this year, and sometimes the weakest one can get left behind. Anyway, they both took to the bottle very quickly.
The last two I came across on the morning of the Chook Pen Disaster! It had been a terribly wet, cold and windy night, and when I found them they were very, very weak and barely alive. In both cases their mums were standing over them, urging them to get up, but I knew they wouldn’t last another hour if I didn’t take them home and warm them up.
Here they are in front of the fire, with Jaz keeping an eye on them while I make up their milk. You can see how weak they look! The big one I don’t think had been up since being born as he still had the orange birth fluid on one side where he was lying and the ewe couldn’t get to it to lick it off. Maybe it was a difficult birth as he is quite big. The smaller one looked to be a couple of days old.
When they are so weak like this, they can’t drink from a bottle, so I had to “tube” them. We have a special small, thin tube, that is attached to a little cup.
To use it, you first measure the distance from the last rib (roughly where the stomach is) to the end of the lambs mouth, so that you know how far the tube needs to be inserted. For the big lamb, it needed to go in right up to the cup, but there was a couple of cm left with the little lamb. I always grease the tube first with a bit of vegetable oil, to help it to slide down easier.
When the lamb is lying on their side their side like this you open their mouth using a finger in the side of their mouth and place the tube over their tongue, towards the back of their throat. Then you need to gently keep passing the tube through to the stomach. I usually check for signs of swallowing, which is a reflex action that even very weak lambs will do as the tube passes down their throat, and this is a good way to tell that you havn’t accidentally gone down the windpipe. Also, the lungs are closer up the body than the stomach, so you probably wouldn’t be able to get the tube down all the way, if you had entered the windpipe. Often you can also hear a weezing sound of their breathing if you are in the wrong pipe.
Once you have the tube inserted correctly you lift the cup and pour in the milk. I was actually able to catch one of the ewes of these lambs, which I always try to do if I can, so I can milk some colostrum from them. The more colostrum the lambs get the better their chance for survival. So both these lambs got colostrum for their first couple of feeds. I usually only give about 30ml for each of the first few feeds, so their stomach has time to adjust -little and often!
Depending on how weak the lamb is they may struggle and try and maneuver it out with their tongue or by shaking their head. This is a good sign – it means they have some fight in them still, but even ones that don’t, can still be saved! It usually only takes a few tube feeds and then you get a surprise when you suddenly hear a loud bleat. Before you know it they are starting to stand up, and then you can start trying to train them onto the bottle!
Here they all are, out in the paddock. Today we are going to set up a multifeeder for them, as it is hard work feeding five lambs with bottles. It takes at least two of us, ideally three! Jasmine gives them plenty of love!