Yesterday, a new lamb was born. Unfortunately this lamb can’t walk, so we’re not sure if he’s going to make it. Since the lamb can’t walk, he can’t eat because he can’t stand up to get milk from his mother. So, we’ve been flipping the mother over and feeding him. Yesterday, he got a lot of milk and he was able to get colostrum, the mother’s first milk containing essential vitamins. The little guy is doing a little better today, but he still can’t walk. He’s a determined little fella and tries so hard! He just ends up head-butting the ground.
I did some research about what why his legs don’t work and I think he has “white muscle disease.” This disease is caused by a lack of selenium in the mother’s diet. These are the two most helpful articles I’ve found about the disease so far. This article, White Muscle Disease in Sheep and Goats and Selenium Deficiency in Sheep. The second article provided the most helpful information.
“Clinical white muscle disease which responds to selenium has been seen in young lambs born to ewes that had been fed on wheat for most of their pregnancy. Some grains may be low in selenium, depending on the area in which they are grown.”
New England is known as an area with low levels of selenium (in the soil? plants? I’m not exactly sure where it comes from yet – I have a lot to learn). Since it’s winter, all the mothers had to eat is hay. So, I think it’s going to be important to figure out which ewes are pregnant and add some selenium to their diet. There are a couple of issues though. First of all, especially in the winter when those sheep have a full coat of wool, it’s very difficult to tell which ones are pregnant. The ewe’s need extra selenium when they’re pregnant so it’s important to get them the minerals. An easy solution would be to just give all the sheep some selenium but that where the second problem arises. Selenium is a tricky mineral – the sheep need it, but too much will kill them. I’m going to have to talk with Dan and see what’s been done in the past and what we can do moving forward to keep a healthy heard of sheep.
Now the question is, what to do? Do we give the lamb some selenium and hope he makes it? I’m afraid of giving him too much that he dies from too much selenium. Also can we eat him in a year if he had selenium at birth? Will it effect the flavor? He’s a male, so we don’t want to keep him around as a ram. He also might not be a good ram for a different heard if he had selenium deficiency at birth. Also, if the white muscle disease has affected his heart, he could suddenly die from heart failure. I guess all we can do now is flip mom over, feed him, and give him some selenium. Let’s hope he makes it!