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A practical approach to reducing losses due to drunken lamb syndrome
  1. Chris Lewis, BVetMed, DSHP, DipECSRHM, MRCVS
  1. Fields Farm, Green Lane, Audlem, Cheshire CW3 0ES, UK
  1. e-mail: christopher{at}

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NEONATAL losses in lambs – particularly on occasions where much time and effort is spent striving to save them – have negative psychological effects on shepherds and also reduce the profitability of enterprises. Many conditions and diseases assail lambs during the first few weeks of life.

Starvation and exposure account for a large proportion of deaths, as does clostridial disease, despite the availability of highly effective vaccines for the dam. Losses that occur once lambs appear to be well bonded during the first two months of life are even more frustrating. A late or low infection rate of toxoplasmosis will produce weakly lambs which, despite intensive attention and support, usually die at about three to four days of age. Again, vaccination of the dam can reduce this incidence to nil. Generally, these losses are both recognised by the shepherd and easily confirmed by the clinician.

Perhaps the most challenging conditions for the clinician and farmer are neurological conditions complicated by metabolic irregularities encountered in the neonate and lambs up to one month old.

Early attempts to determine the reasons for clinical signs concentrated …

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