Last year, I took on two beautiful orphan lambs, Rosie and Basil.
They were the sickest and saddest little lambs I had ever met, and I promised them that they would be cared for and loved right from the day I got them.
I am very lucky to go to a school where we have animals on the property, and I am the main carer of our herd of 60 pure-bred Show Corriedales.
Having been at this school for almost 4 years now, I have seen many lambing seasons, assisted with many births, bottle fed and weighed many lambs, done excessive research on all things sheep, and was prepared for almost anything.
So, When I got my new babies home, I spent hours and hours trying to warm and revive them, as at their old home, they were left for at least 12 hours in a freezing paddock with no shelter, warmth and a mum with no milk.
Eventually they came to and we all got a good nights sleep. However, I don't know if anyone here is still in school, but trust me... juggling school and caring for two little ones is very difficult. Somehow, I managed, and for 3 days, everything was fine.
However, on the 4th morning, I woke up to find poor little Basil coughing and spluttering everywhere... I got him out of bed and he was really hot, so I attempted to cool him off and give him some milk and Vytrate (special energy drink for sick sheep and lambs), but even with all my efforts, poor little Basil passed away, leaving beautiful Rosie very sad.
My little fluffy, white, lamb-like dog -Pippa- and I tried everything we could think of to make Rosie happy and feel like her brother was still with us, but no matter how hard we tried, she just kept losing weight and eventually passed too.
When I spoke to my vet about what happened, she suggested that Basil could have had what they call fading lamb, which is apparently when no matter what you do, the lamb won't survive because they are just too weak and no amount of care will save them, because their immune systems are too weak and they are sick right from the start.
I have tried to research fading lambs, but so far have not come up with anything.
Does anyone have any more information on the cause of fading lambs, or how to avoid this problem?
I know one problem that would have made it harder for Rosie and Basil to survive, and that is that they didn't get their colostrum early enough... this really showed me the importance of getting colostrum into them in time.
Any advice or tips on raising orphan lambs is very welcome, as in the next few weeks, I am going to have another lamb to look after from a friend, because her ewe is having triplets and she can't look after all 3. Thanks!
So sorry to hear that you lost both your lambs, especially as you tried so hard to do the best for them.
You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the lambs not getting enough or any colostrum in the first few hours of their lives. This is really the measure of their success, and this is why if you are not able to get that into their systems, the next best thing to do is to make up a substitute recipe, as we have here, on the website.
However, even then, it is not as good as the real deal! If you can get frozen colostrum and use that, it will give your lambs a far better chance, especially if they get it early enough.