News & Advice

Reviving newborn lambs

Aug 14, 2022 | Dry stock, Dry stock animal health & welfare, Sheep

With the recent cold windy weather and the onset of lambing, this is a good time to remind yourself on how to revive newborn lambs. Weak or cold newborn lambs need rapid attention before hypothermia sets in as they need energy and warmth. Lambs born during a heavy cold snap can exhaust their energy stores just trying to keep warm. Too weak to feed off their mother, they will starve and die.


Caring for lambs under 5 hours old

Lambs less than five hours old will usually respond to warming alone. This is best done with a heat lamp or a hot box, however, care must be taken not to overheat lambs. Stomach tubing with colostrum will hasten the response. This is a relatively simple procedure and definitely saves lives. If the ewe’s colostrum is not available, cow colostrum from the same farm can be used, and powdered colostrum is available. Remember, if you are reheating frozen colostrum, heat very gently as temperatures over 60C will ‘cook’ the antibodies and destroy their activity.


Caring for lambs over 5 hours old

Lambs over five hours old need to be ‘fed’ before they are warmed or the heating process will hasten their death. Lambs need to be tubed with colostrum, or injected with dextrose solution before placed under a heat lamp.

Injecting a 20% mix of dextrose directly into the lamb’s abdomen can give them the energy boost they need to survive. This technique is known as an intra-peritoneal injection. It can be done by the farmer, on the spot, and gives good results.

Procedure for intraperitoneal injection:
  • Inject sterile 20% Dextrose mix directly into the lamb’s abdomen. You can buy it ready-made to this concentration, in a 500ml flexibag with an attached draw-off tube.
  • Connect a 5ml or 10ml vaccinating gun to the draw-off tube or extract the dextrose using a 60ml syringe.
  • Use a 10mm 18G vaccinating needle. It must not be longer than 12.5mm.
  • The dosage rate is 10ml of dextrose per kilo of lamb weight. The most susceptible are small newborn lambs that weigh less than 4kg, so you should inject 40ml.
  • Warm dextrose if possible, however it still works if you don’t.
  • Hold the lamb between your legs or lie it on the ground.
  • Spray the area to be injected with iodine.
  • Push the needle in just in front of the navel (ie. On the head side), push it in at a slight angle towards the chest. You may feel a popping sensation as the needle pierces the abdomen.
  • Inject the solution.
  • If you see a swelling occurring under the skin, the needle is not in far enough.

As always, for further information or if you are concerned about the health of a lamb(s) give your local Anexa vet a call – we’re here to help.


Other Anexa resources you might find helpful:

Yoghurtised milk to help avoid abomasal bloat in bottle-fed lambs

Getting great results for orphan lambs and kids

Rearing orphan lambs

Lambing Time

Lamb survival






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