What is Flat Lamb Syndrome in Sheep?

What would cause the death of a lamb that was healthy the day before? Why is my lamb lying in the pasture, not getting up, and is it dying? What is flat lamb syndrome? Learn about one of the concerns in sheep or goats when a multiple birth occurs. Lea

If you have lambs, or even kids (baby goats) you may have gone out one morning and found one of your lambs, or kids, laying flat, either dead, or dying, and been puzzled. The lamb, or kid, may have no injuries, and been perfectly healthy the day before, leaving you to wonder, how did my lamb die, or how did the kid die? You may also be concerned that this is the first sign of a disease in your flock.

Symptoms of Flat Lamb Syndrome

The typical victim of flat lamb syndrome is a young lamb, often under a week of age, lying flat on its side, either dead, or in poor shape, it may appear to be flatter than you would expect a lamb to be. It may feel chilled.

What is Flat Lamb Syndrome?

The name is generally one given by farmers as this is not a syndrome in itself but rather a term used by farmers and people who keep lambs, using flat kid syndrome to describe the same problem in kids.

Flat Lamb Syndrome is the result of the mother sheep laying on her lamb.

This is more likely to be a problem overnight, and occurs when the ewe simply loses track of her lamb when she is laying down. Because she has laid on it for an extended period of time its ribs may be squashed, injuring its lungs and heart, for which it may not recover. As she gets up in the morning the lamb is unable to follow and, if not already dead, will typically pass away in a few hours.

Flat lamb syndrome is more often a problem for first, or second time, mothers, particularly if they have twins or triplets. In goats the same thing is true, as many goat breeds are noted for does producing three or more kids. However it is more common in sheep than in goats just because of the larger body mass of a ewe when compared to a doe.

It is most common in the first week, when lambs are small.

©by author, ewe with triplets

What to do with a Flat Lamb?

If you find a lamb in this condition you must be aware its chances for survival are slim. You may try bringing it into someplace warm, and may even try bottle feeding it. However if internal damage has been done these efforts will be in vain.

If the lamb was sat on in the day, it may have a better chance than one that was slept on over night.

How to Prevent Flat Lamb Syndrome?

If ewes and lambs are kept in stalls, or lambing jugs, they should be roomy, at least 6 ft x 6 ft for small sheep, or 6 ft x 8 ft for larger ewes, or those with many lambs. Bigger is better. A small night light in the barn may help. Otherwise there really is not much you can do. Even ewes with lambs on pasture (rather than in a barn) have been known to lay on their lambs by mistake.

It is important to note that flat lamb syndrome may occur in one of a hundred lambs, if you find several lambs dead suddenly and it does not appear to be the result of flat lamb syndrome you should consider a disease, and take one of the lambs to a veterinarian for examination and further diagnosis.


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