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Posted: 12/05/2023
Young lamb standing in barn

Support for Healthy Lambs & Kids: A Scours Prevention Guide

Expanding the flock or herd can be a very exciting time for producers of all sizes to see what potential this lamb or kid crop will bring to the operation. With that excitement comes the need for preparation – both in management practices and general health support for each lamb and/or kid. Livestock diarrhea, known as scours, often occurs for newborn animals after they’re exposed to viruses, bacteria or parasites. Scouring lambs and kids can lose high volumes of fluids and need extra support to regain lost energy and nutrients. Avoiding scours isn’t completely possible as temperature and other factors can play big roles, but prevention efforts are very important for long term success. Read on for more insight about lamb and kid scours, and how Durvet products are essential in supporting, protecting and energizing your animals in their earliest days.

What Makes a Sheep Scour?

A study by the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho found that diarrhea accounted for 46% of lamb mortality. With such big numbers, it’s key to understand where the risk comes from. In the first 30 days of life for lambs and kids, there are four common causes of diarrhea/scours:

  • E. Coli: Though it’s the most common cause, E. Coli scours outbreaks usually occur between 12 and 48 hours after birth. Stronger sanitation and environmental care are the best ways to prevent this type of scours.
  • Rotavirus: Depressed and/or dehydrated animals between 2-14 days old have likely been infected with a rotavirus scours. To prevent this type of scours, consider vaccinating ewes to provide passive immunity against rotavirus before they give birth.
  • Cryptosporidium: Similar to rotavirus, cryptosporidium (tiny parasites) impact animals around just 5-10 days of age. This scours can create a yellow liquid diarrhea, even for animals who appear active and continue to nurse.
  • Salmonella: This bacterial scours can hit animals of all ages, though the fatal cases are in lambs and kids less than one week old.
Any of these four infectious causes can lead to watery, bloody or even mucousy feces. While dietary supportives and extra fluids will help once you recognize the scours, prevention through vaccines, sanitary management, and quality colostrum will go a long way in avoiding these potentially fatal situations altogether.

Can Worms Cause Diarrhea in Lambs?

Worms are gastrointestinal parasites that are one of the most common causes of diarrhea in older lambs and kids. Animals ages 1-4 months are more susceptible to worms or coccidiosis (disease stemming from microscopic organisms), especially when experiencing the stress of shipping, weaning or other changes. Even though feces of a scouring lamb or kid can appear quite differently for each animal, you won’t be able to tell which organism infected that animal based on the color and/or consistency alone.

Small, young goat kids sleeping in a barn

How to Treat Diarrhea in Young Goats

Coccidiosis is another common cause of diarrhea in young goats and sheep. Usually it occurs in crowded quarters. While lambs tend to resist it in the first few weeks, goats and lambs become more susceptible between 1 and 4 months old. Supportive care products, especially electrolytes and other fluids, can help the animals feel better. Be sure to separate them from those who aren’t ill to avoid spreading infection.

Will Antibiotics Help Scours?

Since June when GFI #263 moved medically important antimicrobials from over-the-counter (OTC) to prescription (Rx), many producers have had to find other solutions to caring for livestock. The fact is that there’s simply no true substitute for antibiotics. It's why prevention is incredibly important. Prevention starts with smart management leading up to the birth(s) which can include prenatal vaccinations for dams, clean pens with fresh bedding, and regularly disinfected feeders with fresh water (among other things). Vaccines can deliver passive immunity to lambs and kids in the womb, but once they are out, they need ever-important colostrum in the first 12 hours after birth. This nutritious energy source sets up newborns for success as it contains antibodies that can protect them from disease. Beyond that key first feeding, good nutrition will remain an important part of disease prevention.

Selection of Durvet lamb & kid products

Durvet Support Products

For more than 50 years, Durvet has committed to being a premier supplier of high quality animal health products. The company aims for healthy animals and healthy value – a true win-win for our industry. We like to say Durvet products Deliver Undeniable Reliable Value Every Time.

As you consider how to stock your lambing and kidding kits, explore these items in the full line of preventative care products from Durvet:

  • DuraZyme Lamb & Kid Paste gives animals an immediate energy boost at birth, and helps protect newborns during the critical first 24 hours. You can use DuraZyme at the first sign of health problems or to supplement colostrum.
  • A high-calorie liquid supplement, Lamb & Kid Omega 3-6-9 Plus delivers 100 calories per ounce in a palatable vanilla flavor. You can use this drench as is or dilute it with milk as needed.
  • Need to mix electrolytes with milk, milk replacer or water? Try Formula 911 Multi-Species Supplement, a blend of electrolytes, probiotics and nutrients that provides hydration and energy during environmental challenges.
  • Lamb & Kid Colostrum offers a solid source of maternal antibodies and protein for newborns. Get a generous supply of highly absorbable, essential vitamins and trace minerals necessary to establish good health. Choose from an oral gel or powder product.

Are You Prepared for Sick Lambs & Kids?

Scours happens to plenty of us, but it doesn’t have to be disastrous if we’re prepared for it. Work to prevent scours in lambs and kids with trusted Durvet products. PBS Animal Health carries hundreds of Durvet supportives and other items that work hard to improve the health of your flock or herd. Protect your financial investment and choose Durvet today!

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article, and all other articles by pbsanimalhealth is for informational purposes only. This article may have been prepared from multiple sources at the time it was written and is not intended to be used as a sole source of information in making any purchase or specific product use decision. We recommend you always consult with your attending veterinarian to properly diagnose any health-related condition before initiating any prevention or treatment program. Always read and follow each product’s current label instructions and Warnings before use.

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