Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Feeding a Weak Lamb

The first time I heard about the process of "tubing" a lamb, or feeding via a tube, I was slightly horrified. It sounded so barbaric. But watching a weak lamb slowly die is not all that much fun, either. 

So, "tubing" a lamb has become one of our strategies for lamb survival--a tool in our toolbox, if you will. It is important that the lamb is not cold--you can tell by feeling the ears. If the lamb is cold, you must warm it up before tubing it. 

The three things needed are a chunky syringe, a flexible tube, and some lamb milk replacer (or mama's milk, if you can get it). You'll see in the photos below that the milk is in a standard baby's bottle. The bottle in this case is simply something to hold the milk in. 

The Farmer likes to warm the tube in hot water to make it flexible. The thin end of the tube is inserted carefully into the esophagus. The wider end of the tube is attached to the bottom of the syringe.

The warm milk is poured into the syringe, which is used as a funnel.

It is allowed to gently flow into the lamb's stomach.

Sometimes a lamb is weak because it has been neglected by its mother. Not so in this case. The ewe is very interested in what is happening to her lamb. As soon as the milk is out of the syringe, the tube is removed and everything is washed up carefully and allowed to dry before the next use.

Tube feeding is only used when the lamb is too weak to do anything. Sometimes this is just enough to give the lamb enough energy to stand and nurse on its own. Sometimes we need to repeat the tubing several hours later. And sometimes, no matter what we do, the lamb does not live.

It's all part of the cycle of life in the sheep barn.

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