Vet’s View

Twin lamb dis­ease

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month - Char­lotte Mouland is a vet with Syn­ergy Farm Health Ltd in Dorset which is a mem­ber of XL Vets

Dur­ing the last six weeks of a ewe’s preg­nancy there are huge en­ergy de­mands placed on her – her lambs are grow­ing ex­tremely fast and she has to start pro­duc­ing pro­tein-rich colostrum (first milk). Add to this a lack of space in her ab­domen due to large lambs press­ing on her stom­achs, it can be dif­fi­cult for the ewe to phys­i­cally eat enough food to meet her en­ergy re­quire­ments at this time.

Twin lamb dis­ease is caused by this neg­a­tive en­ergy bal­ance and can be fa­tal if not treated promptly. It gets its name as it is mostly seen in ewes car­ry­ing mul­ti­ple lambs and usu­ally in older, thin ewes. Com­monly a stress­ful event such as housing, in­clement weather con­di­tions or han­dling can trig­ger the dis­ease in at-risk ewes.

Spot­ting twin lamb dis­ease

Of­ten in the early stages of twin lamb dis­ease the ewe will iso­late her­self and ap­pear lethar­gic. As the con­di­tion pro­gresses the ewe may show mus­cle tremors, she may ap­pear blind (dis­ori­en­tated, bump­ing into things) and she will be­come un­able to rise and stop eat­ing.

How to treat the dis­ease

Treat­ment needs to be ad­min­is­tered ASAP to save the ewe and her lambs. The sick ewe should be penned on her own and of­fered plenty of palat­able roughage, con­cen­trates and a con­stant sup­ply of clean, fresh wa­ter. In or­der to re­store her en­ergy lev­els, oral en­ergy so­lu­tions should be ad­min­is­tered. Propy­lene gly­col is a good choice of en­ergy drench and 100ml should be given by mouth on day 1 of the dis­ease and 50 ml on day 2 and day 3.

Twin lamb dis­ease can be very dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from hypocal­caemia, which is a cal­cium de­fi­ciency in late preg­nancy. There­fore it is ad­vis­able to ad­min­is­ter 80ml of cal­cium in­jec­tion un­der the skin at the same time. If in any doubt or if the ewe does not im­prove or de­te­ri­o­rates dur­ing treat­ment, ve­teri­nary as­sis­tance should be sought. Ewes with twin lamb dis­ease need to be closely mon­i­tored for any signs of lamb­ing or abor­tion as they may be too weak to lamb by them­selves.

In some in­stances where the ewe isn’t re­spond­ing to med­i­cal treat­ment, the vet may in­duce her to lamb or even con­sider a cae­sarean sec­tion. The rea­son for this is that once the ewe has lambed the en­ergy de­mands placed on her will drop and she will be able to re­cover.

Pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure

Hav­ing ewes in an ap­pro­pri­ate body con­di­tion score dur­ing preg­nancy will pro­vide them with a good en­ergy re­serve to help pre­vent twin lamb dis­ease. For low­land flocks the tar­get body con­di­tion score dur­ing preg­nancy is 3 out of 5 (a good re­source on body con­di­tion scor­ing ewes can be found on­line in the AHDB man­ual ‘Man­ag­ing ewes for bet­ter re­turns’).

Be­cause of this lack of room in the ab­domen for ewes car­ry­ing mul­ti­ple lambs, con­cen­trate feeds need to be fed to meet the en­ergy de­mand. The ex­act en­ergy re­quire­ment will de­pend on how many lambs the ewe is car­ry­ing, there­fore preg­nancy scan­ning can be a use­ful tool to find this out and feed ac­cord­ingly.

Chat to your vet to make a nu­tri­tion plan for lamb­ing and re­mem­ber min­imis­ing stress in late preg­nancy is crit­i­cal in prevent­ing twin lamb dis­ease and other com­pli­ca­tions.

Down ewes should be bed­ded on deep straw and of­fered fresh wa­ter and feed

is key Man­ag­ing nu­tri­tion lamb to prevent­ing twin flock dis­ease in your

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