Young animals: Lamb and Kids problems (new)

Young animals: Lamb and Kids problems (new)

Copper deficiency in Lambs

(c) Dr M. Younan

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Local names: Embu: kuvarua / Gabbra:halabata, albahti, albata / Luo: Ambululu, diep / Kipsigis: keburketan / Kikuyu: ruharo,kuharuo / Kamba:wituuo / Maasai: Ankorotik, olodo kurum / Maragoli: kunyalala munda / Samburu: ngorotit, nkiriato, ngiriata, kep-ngochek / Somali: har, har dig, hardik, shutan, daab, adeya / Turkana: eremonu, lomaritenit, anemoriloleo, lolera /

Description: Management disease 



Diarrhoea is a common disease in lambs and kids- , especially in the newborn and suckling young animals. The acute disease in the newborn is characterised by progressive dehydration and rapid death, sometimes in as few as12 hours. In the subacute form, diarrhoea may persist for several days and result in emaciation and stunted growth.



Several pathogens are associated with neonatal diarrhoea. The most common are the bacterium Escherichia coli, the viruses (Rota and Corona) and Cryptosporidia parasites.  Others include Salmonella, Clostridia and Coccidia. The organisms responsible for diarrhoea are commonly found in the faeces of healthy animals and can survive for long time in the pen or in the boma and especially in dirty foul standing water. A few kids or lambs with diarrhoea can severely contaminate the area and infect other animals. Transmission of diarrhoea is by licking up dirt or ingesting it by mouth. Very close contact facilitates transmission of disease. Do not house too many animals of the same age close together.

Diarrhoea mostly occurs because of stress, dirty housing, wet conditions and overcrowding.


Signs of Diarrhoea

  • Bad smelling soft, sometimes watery, faeces which is usually whitish in color and sometimes frothy
  • The affected lambs/kids lack appetite, becomes dull and refuse to drink.
  • Lambs/kids have a very small body, when they have fever and stop drinking they lose water, minerals and energy very fast and cannot stand up any more after 12 hours.
  • Their skin becomes dry and looses elasticity. If you raise a skin fold it remains standing for a while and does not move back. This is a sign of severe dehydration.
  • Also the mouth and nose feels cold and the eyes sink into the socket.
  • Kids and Lambs that are dull, have a cold mouth and a dry skin and may die any moment
  • Some kids and lambs can die suddenly without showing any signs of diarrhoea, they are faeces are full of blood


The major symptoms of diarrhoea are dehydration (lack of water), profound weaknes, and death within hours. Onset is sudden with passing of a lot of liquid faeces. The animals become completely dull and often die within 12-24 hours.


Lamb Dysentery or Clostridial diarrhoea affects calves/lambs/kids of a few days old, which are strong and have good appetite. Onset is very sudden with depression, weakness, bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain and death within one to a few hours. Clostridia produce a lot of toxin which kills very fast. Most dieLambs/kids often die suddenly without showing any signs of diarrhoea, bloody faeces may be visible on the anus. These lambs/kids that die suddenly cannot be saved by treatment. The only way to protect such lambs and kids is by vaccinating their mothers during pregnancy (read more further below under Enterotoxaemia).


Coccidiosis often causes diarrhoea with blood in kids/lambs up to weaning age. With certain types of coccidia animals are found dead before treatment can be starteddiarrhoea becomes visible.

When lambs/kids start to graze they can also develop diarrhoea due to worm infection (read more under worms).

Usually it is difficult to make a definite diagnosis based purely on the clinical signs. However, a presumptive diagnosis may be made based on the history, age of the calf, and symptoms. FaecalIf many kids/lambs die faecal samples from both sick and healthy calves should be taken for submission to a laboratory, together with, if possible, a living sick animal.


Prevention and Control

The most important protection against diarrhoea for the kids/lambs is the mothers colostrum, which protects them like a vaccine during their first months of life. If newborn kids/lambs are weak it is good to assist them to drink their first milk as early as possible. Colostrum given too late is the main cause of most diarrhoeas (read more about colostrum under 'Assisting with birth').

Re-hydration treatment applies to all different forms of diarrhoea and must be started very early, when the kids/lambs are still able to stand and suckle. Many pathogens of the intestine also produce toxins that can kill the animal fast. Charcoal powder cam be given together with rehydration solution to absorb toxins and remove them from the body.

  • A new-born kid/lamb must drink at least 5% of its bodyweight of colostrum during the first 2 hours after birth, delayed suckling of colostrums gives none or of inferior protection against diarrhoea and many other diseases.
  • Always Provide clean water to young calves/lambs/kids for drinking
  • Pregnant ewes and goats should be vaccinated against enterotoxaemia 4-6 weeks before lambing (Insert link to vaccine) to protect the newborn via colcostrum.
  • Clean pens regularly. Do not allow faeces to accumulate. 



The most important treatment measure regardless of the cause of diarrhoea is rehydration. Kids and lambs require minimum 0.1litre per kg body weight per day (give 0.3 -0.4litre per day in 5-6 small portions).

  • Rehydration fluid should be given for three to five days.
  • In addition finely crushed charcoal (like powder) can be added to the rehydration fluid (2 handful of charcoal powder per litre, then passed through a sieve).

How to prepare rehydration fluid for young animals with diarrhoea

How to prepare rehydration fluid for young animals with diarrhoea



Antibiotics are not required to treat diarrhoea caused by viruses, or protozoa such as cryptosporidia or coccidia.

In cases of septicaemia due to E.coli use injectable antibiotics.

Coccidiosis is easy to confirm in the laboratory and msut be treated with specific anti-Coccidia drugs (Amprolium, also some sulphonamides given orally). For  coccidiosis treat all lambs/kids in the same age group, because some may die before showing diarrhoea.



Description: Enterotoxaemia is caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, an organism which occurs worldwide in the soil and in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. It is characterized by the ability to produce potent toxins (poisons). The bacteria are also capable of forming spores which survive for very long periods in soil. Five types have been identified, the most important of which are B, C and D.

The spores of Clostridium perfringens Types B, C and D are found in soil and faeces of normal animals in areas where disease is prevalent as well as in the intestinal contents of infected sheep. Their presence in the intestinal tract of normal animals is important because they are able to form the focus for a fatal infection as and when conditions alter to allow their rapid multiplication.

The organism multiplies extremely rapidly in the presence of high levels of carbohydrate when oxygen tension is low. Thus, in cases of Lamb Dysentery, disease is most prevalent in lambs which ingest large quantities of milk. So heavily-milking breeds are more susceptible than lighter-milking breeds. A similar situation exists with Pulpy Kidney Disease, when a change of diet from one consisting mostly of roughage to one predominating in grain, allows starch granules to move into the duodenum, where they form an ideal medium for the multiplication of the bacteria, which produce toxin (poison).


a) Types B and C (Dysentery)

These types cause severe enteritis (stomach infection), dysentery (very severe diarrhea, often with blood and mucous), toxaemia (blood poisoning) and high mortality in young lambs, calves, pigs and foals. 

  • Types B and C both produce the highly necrotizing and lethal beta toxin, which is responsible for severe intestinal damage.  Adult cattle, sheep and goats can be affected by enterotoxaemia caused by Type C. 
  • Lamb Dysentery occurs in lambs up to three weeks of age and is caused by Type B.
  • Calf Enterotoxaemia is caused by Types B and C in well fed calves up to one month of age. 
  • Pig Enterotoxaemia occurs during the first few days of life and is caused by Type C. 
  • Foal Enterotoxaemia occurs during the first week of life and is caused by Type B.
  • Struck is caused by Type C in adult sheep, while Goat Enterotoxaemia in adult goats is also caused by Type C.


Signs of Enteroxamia (Dysentery)

Lamb dysentery is an acute disease of lambs less than three weeks old. Many die before symptoms are seen. Others stop suckling, become listless, have a foetid (foul smelling), blood-tinged diarrhoea and die within a few days. 

In calves there is acute diarrhoea, dysentery, abdominal pain and convulsions. Death may occur within a few hours, but less severe cases may survive for a few days and occasionally recovery may occur.

Struck is characterized by sudden death in adult sheep.



Typical sign in all cases is a bloody inflammation of the guts (haemorrhagic enteritis) with ulceration of the mucosa.  Under the microscope stained smears of the gut contents reveal large numbers of gram positive rod-shaped bacteria.


Control and Prevention

  • Because the disease is so severe, treatment is ineffective.  Oral administration of antibiotics may be helpful in some cases.
  • The disease in lambs is best controlled by vaccination of the pregnant dam during the last third of pregnancy, initially 2 vaccinations one month apart and annually thereafter.
  • When outbreaks occur in newborn animals from unvaccinated dams, antiserum, if available, should be administered immediately after birth.
  • Type D  (Pulpy Kidney Disease)
  • This type causes Pulpy Kidney Disease of sheep.   
  • It occurs world wide and may occur in animals of any age, but occurs most commonly in 3 - 12 week old lambs and in fattening lambs 6 - 12 months old.  Single lambs are more susceptible than twins. Mortality is usually 100%.
  • It is caused by the rapid multiplication of the organism in the small intestine and the subsequent absorption of the epsilon toxin, which is produced by the organism in the intestine.
  • Lambs on lush grazing or being fed grain in feedlots, are particularly at risk.


b) Pulpy Kidney disease

Pulpy Kidney Disease is peracute (very fast killing) with most cases being found dead. Those that are observed before death show hyperaesthesia (excessive reaction to being touched and other stimuli), staggering progressing to lying down, with its head twisted back over the back, intermittent convulsions, occasional diarrhoea and death. Affected animals do not recover.



In lambs the circumstances of sudden convulsive death in the best conditioned lambs strongly indicate Pulpy Kidney. Laboratory diagnosis involves demonstration of the presence of toxin and is not carried out routinely in Kenya.


Control and Prevention

There are two main control measures available:

  1. Reduction in the food intake. Immediately moving lambs from a lush pasture to a poorer one may help to minimize losses, and similarly avoidance of any sudden changes in diet which are likely to result in acidosis and promote conditions favourable to multiplication of the organism and production of toxin.
  2. Vaccination: Ewe immunization is probably the most satisfactory method of control. Breeding ewes should be given 2 injections of Type D Toxoid in their first year and 1 injection 4 -6 weeks before lambing each year thereafter.


Lambs should receive their first vaccination dose when 8-12 weeks old and a second dose 4-6 weeks later.

Polyvalent vaccines protecting against other clostridial diseases such as Blackquarter, and Tetanus, frequently incorporate components protection against Lamb Dysentery and Pulpy Kidney Disease, and the manufacturer's instructions should be closely adhered to.



Pasteurellosis/Pneumonia/CCPP complex

Common names: Pneumonia

Description: Pneumonia affects mainly older weaned lambs/kids. It is often associated with  stress, overcrowding and poor  housing. The disease can quickly lead to death. Recovered animals may not be worth keeping, because they remain stunted (= growing very slowly and not reaching normal size).

The main underlying cause of pneumonia is poor immunity of the lambs/kids related to lack of colostrum, stress and poor feeding. Agents of respiratory infections in lambs/kids include:

  • CCPP is caused by a specific type of Mycoplasma, it only affects goats and kids while sheep and lambs remain healthy, if CCPP is in your goat herd many old goats have chronic and recurrent respiratory disease and most of the kids will die
  • In sheep lambs and goat kids Pasteurella multocida and Mannheimia haemolytia are the most common cause of pneumonia


Signs of Pneumonia

  • Rise in temperature which can be as high as 40.5 - 42 oC accompanied by watery discharge from the eyes and noses.
  • Discharge from the nose later becomes thick and contains pus.
  • Rapid breathing and cough
  • More severely affected lambs/kids lie down and breath very heavily to get enough air.
  • In very acute cases of pneumonia there can be death within 1 day.



The disease is obvious from the respiratory signs accompanied by fever.

Indicative signs of CCPP are the affection of goats only (not sheep) and that all ages in goats are very sick with severe respiratory symptoms. It must be confirmed by a laboratory.


Prevention and Control

  • If you have CCPP in your herds don't struggle with wasting money on repeated treatments, it is costly and the disease keeps coming back; consult a veterinarian and start vaccination, specific CCPP vaccine is produced at KEVEVAPI, sometime it is best to cull the CCPP infected herd and buy new clean goats
  • Proper ventilation to minimize draughts and humidity and to reduce ammonia and other noxious gases
  • Avoid overcrowding in the stable and on pasture
  • Provide dry housing and warm bedding to prevent chilling which damage the normal protective mechanisms in the lambs and kids respiratory system
  • As with diarrhoea, ensure early and adequate intake of colostrums after birth; colostrum from the mother is a free vaccination against common disease agents and protects against pneumonia
  • In Europe and America there are vaccines against sheep pasteurellosis.


Recommended treatment

Long-acting Oxytetracycline plus Vit ADE given to all lambs / kids in the affected age group is the best antibiotic treatment.



Other names: Sore mouth, Contagious pustular dermatitis, Ecthyma, Mbururor Humbururu (Borana & Gabbra); Lopedo or Non-kutukie (Samburu); Ambarrur, Mburur (Somali); Ngiborwok, Mburuwok (Turkana)

Description: A very common infection that affects especially young lambs and kids and occurs worldwide. It produces lesions on the lips and is often more severe in goats than in sheep. - Occasionally the virus can also infect humans who handle infected animals. In humans it causes a localised round skin lesion, mostly on the hands, which is painful but heals without treatment. Wearing gloves when working with infected sheep will protect you against Orf.

Cause: Orf is caused by a virus that can be found wherever sheep and goats are kept. There is no specific treatment against Orf.


Signs of Orf:

Small pustules appear first on the junction between upper and lower lip (in the corner of the mouth). The pustules later rupture and produce dry scabs, looking similar to sheep pox lesions. Orf can be anything between very mild and very severe, depending on the type of Orf in you herd and also on the strength and condition of the lambs and kids.  Because there are many different types of Orf virus the same animal can have Orf more than once, when it gets infected by a new Orf type.

  • The lesions can spread to cover the entire mouth, the skin of the head, the inside of the mouth and can even infect the oesophagus. 
  • Because Orf lesions are painful lambs and kids affected by Orf often stop suckling. If severe Orf infects weak lambs/kids they stop suckling for days and can die from starvation and dehydration.

Otherwise the disease is self limiting and will heal within a few weeks. In dirty unhygienic stables or Bomas the Orf lesions can get infected by dirt bacteria and the disease becomes worse.


Orf on young sheep

Orf on young sheep

Orf lesion on human hand

Orf lesion on human hand





  • The most important treatment measure is to assist Orf lambs/kids with suckling and bottle feed them if necessary until they resume suckling milk.
  • The second most important treatment measure is to provide a clean and dry environment for sick lambs/kids, this reduces the risk of bacteria infecting the Orf lesions.
  • The third measure is to treat Orf lesions infected by bacteria by putting wound ointment (antibiotic creme or iodine) on the lesions to support the healing improves.
  • In severe cases (weak lambs/kids) it becomes necessary to inject Penicillin to stop bacteria from infecting the lesions and making them worse.

Complete healing of the lesions takes a few weeks. Older lambs and kids will infect the younger ones and an Orf outbreak in a lambing herd can last for 6 - 8 weeks.

Sometimes Orf virus can spread from the mouth of the kid to the teat of the goat and cause a painful lesion on the teat. This may interfere with normal milking and even lead to mastitis.



The most important prophylaxis is good management (feeding, housing) of your herd to ensure strong and healthy lambs/kids. In strong lambs/kids kept in clean environment Orf is normally a mild disease that does not cause problems.

Orf vaccine is available from KEVEVAPI and can be used in lambs as early as 3 days after birth. The vaccine is applied by scarification of the skin, not by injection. Wear gloves to protect your hands during vaccination. If the vaccine accidentally gets into the human skin through scratches / small wounds, it can cause a painful lesion. The vaccine cannot contain all types of Orf virus. Depending on the type of Orf that is present in your herd it may work well or be less effective.

(read more under 'Head and Skin problems')


Navel Ill

Other names: Crippled lambs

Description: Infection of the joints that enters the body through the navel or through tick bites

The infection enters the body immediately after birth through the navel. It affects lambs up to 3 months. The joints swell up and the lambs are very sick and severely lame. Pus is found in the joints and in other organs of the body. Many lambs can die within 2-3 weeks. The disease is caused mainly by Staphylococcus, but also by Corynebacteria and Streptococci , which are present in the herd and in the stables and pens.

Prevention is through ensuring early intake of colostrums and by providing a clean and dry lambing area. Also disinfection of navels of newborn lambs and kids with iodine solution.

Treatment must start early before swelling of the joints has progressed. Checking for hot joints in sick lambs helps to recognise the disease early. Both, penicillin (injected daily for 3-5 days) and Tetracycline long-acting (one injection) are effective if given early enough. If the disease has already killed lambs give Tetracycline long-acting to all lambs of the same age group.


Copper Deficiency

Other common name: Swayback

Description: In some parts of East Africa the soil is lacking in copper (esp. common on loose sandy soils). Plants and grass growing in such areas are short in Copper. Pregnant sheep grazing in these areas are Copper deficient give birth to their lambs defect.  These lambs at first look normal but later their hind-legs become paralysed and they cannot stand up properly. Eventually they have to be culled.

There is no treatment for these lambs.



Is by providing pregnant sheep with a mineral salt that contains Copper.

Copper deficiency in Lambs

Copper deficiency in Lambs


Fleas and Lice, Sheep Ked

Fleas and lice are parasites that live on the skin of the animal and fee don its' blood. The Sheep Ked is a brown fly that has lost its' wings and looks like a tick. It is found only on sheep and goats with wool and is a very active blood-sucker.

Because lambs and kids are very small even a small volume of blood lost to these blood-sucking parasites can weaken the animal considerably and even lead to death.



Check lambs and kids regularly for fleas and lice and remove as many as possible by hand. You can get rid of Sheep Keds just by removing them, because they only live on sheep/goats. You can also use insecticide shampoos to wash the lambs or kids and immediately move them to a clean pen (not used by other sheep/goats for a long time).  Insecticide sprays kill fleas hiding in the environment but are very poisonous. They can only be used in stables when all animals are outside. Read instructions very carefully.

Lice on sheep

Lice on sheep



Review Process:

1 Draft By William Ayako, Animal scientist, KARI Naivasha Aug 2009
2 Review workshop team. Nov 2 - 5, 2010

  • For Infonet: Anne Bruntse, Dr Hugh Cran , Dr Mario Younan
  • For KARI: , William Ayako - Animal scientist, KARI Naivasha
  • For DVS: Dr Josphat Muema - Dvo Isiolo, Dr Charity Nguyo - Kabete Extension Division, Mr Patrick Muthui - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Isiolo, Ms Emmah Njeri Njoroge - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Machakos
  • Pastoralists: Dr Ezra Saitoti Kotonto - Private practitioner, Abdi Gollo H.O.D. Segera Ranch
  • Farmers: Benson Chege Kuria and Francis Maina Gilgil and John Mutisya Machakos
  • Language and format: Carol Gachiengo

3.  June 2013: Review and insertion of Salmonella, Naval ill and Lamb and kid problems by: Dr Mario Younan (DVM, PhD), Regional Technical Advisor for VSF-Germany. working in East Africa since 1995


Information Source Links

  • Barber, J., Wood, D.J. (1976) Livestock management for East Africa: Edwar Arnold (Publishers) Ltd 25 Hill Street London WIX 8LL. ISBN: 071310063X
  • Blood, D.C., Radostits, O.M. and Henderson, J.A. (1983) Veterinary Medicine - A textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Goats and Horses. Sixth Edition - Bailliere Tindall London. ISBN: 0702012866
  • Blowey, R.W. (1986). A Veterinary book for dairy farmers: Farming press limited Wharfedale road, Ipswich, Suffolk IPI 4LG
  • Force, B. (1999). Where there is no Vet. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands. ISBN 978-0333-58899-4.
  • Hall, H.T.B. (1985). Diseases and parasites of Livestock in the tropics. Second Edition. Longman Group UK. ISBN 0582775140
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: General principles. Volume 1 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN: 0333612027
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: Specific Diseases. Volume 2 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN:0-333-57360-9
  • ITDG and IIRR (1996). Ethnoveterinary medicine in Kenya: A field manual of traditional animal health care practices. Intermediate Technology Development Group and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966-9606-2-7.
  • Pagot, J. (1992). Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics. MacMillan Education Limited London. ISBN 0-333-53818-8
  • The Organic Farmer magazine No. 50 July 2009