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Straight Talk: June 2017

I get a number of calls through the season when producers call and report finding dead lambs that had appeared healthy and are now dead. In younger lambs, often starvation is the cause. If noticed before death, tubing with warm lamb milk replacer or preferably a milk product that has been enhanced by energy, serum, and electrolytes such as our Lamb and Kid Quick Start will bring some of them back. I don’t inject any type of energy products, too damaging to the lamb. Injury from getting laid on is common, but often the laid on lambs were in the process of starvation, a necropsy will determine this. In older lambs, the three to week old variety injury still happens, intestinal displacements are common and I found a lamb of my own today with an abomasal ulcer, something that I can’t explain. Coccidiosis is common three weeks and older but seldom causes acute deaths. Respiratory problems seldom cause acute death without preceding symptoms. Despite the best of management occasionally a lamb is going to be found dead for a number of different reasons. Necropsy is the answer for diagnosis and that is not always conclusive. Sending lambs to a state veterinary diagnostic lab sometimes helps but they don’t always get it right either.

My concern is often a clostridia diagnosis, enterotoxemia, will be made. I believe enterotoxemia and E coli are a laboratories pet diagnosis when they are unable to come up with something else. Not surprising because they only are presented with half the picture. Veterinarians are also likely to diagnose enterotoxemia when they fail to find a cause. Enterotoxemia is the most over diagnosed disease in the sheep industry. In thymus, possibly the heart combined with inflamed intestine but the petechial hemorrhage on the thymus is key. Clostridium and E coli can almost always be cultured but that shouldn’t be translated as a diagnosis as they are often gut inhabitants.

The other concern I have about enterotoxemia is it is a disease as a result of a gut enriched media that allows for rapid proliferation of clostridia organisms that produce a toxin that kills the animal or if to a lesser degree results in immunity. This happens over a period of time when animals are on concentrate rations. This is to be differentiated from acidosis which is the result of ingesting, generally grain in quantities greater than customary over a short period of time resulting in acidosis. Vaccinating for enterotoxemia doesn’t prevent acidosis. When talking about things that don’t work and drug overuse the first drug that comes to mind is Banamine. When the drug was incorporated with Nuflor to produce Resflor it was shown to reduce fever as compared to Nuflor alone. What they never published was the mortality difference which would lead one to suspect that temperature is an important part of the recovery process. You will find no Banamine in my lambing barn. Good drug for horse colic and that’s about it.

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