Meat & Livestock News

Yoghurt: A Solution to Abomasal Bloat in Orphaned Lambs

Abomasal bloat in lambs is a severe condition where excess gas causes the abomasum to swell, potentially leading to fatal ruptures and damage to surrounding organs. The primary culprit is believed to be the bacteria Sarcina ventriculi, though other bacteria like Cl.sordellii and Cl.fallax can also be responsible. The condition is exacerbated when warm milk, rich in lactose, is ingested, providing an ideal environment for these bacteria to ferment and produce gas.

A straightforward remedy from Norway involves adding acidophilus yoghurt to the milk. This method, adapted for New Zealand by Waikato farmer Claire Bull and veterinarian Jenny Burton, requires mixing yoghurt with calf milk replacer and allowing it to warm for 8-12 hours.

The resultant yoghurt blend is combined with the daily milk ration at 1:7. This mixture can be stored in sterile containers for up to a week, with a portion retained as a starter for the next batch.

For smaller numbers of orphan lambs, a tablespoon of acidophilus yoghurt can be mixed into 500ml of cow’s milk or reconstituted powder just before feeding. If lambs are already affected by bloat, 40-60ml of acidophilus yoghurt can be administered thrice daily via a drench gun or stomach tube.

The efficacy of this treatment lies in the probiotics present in yoghurt. These probiotics combat harmful bacteria, bolster immune function, and even reduce scouring. Additionally, yoghurt contains prebiotics that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.

It’s recommended that lambs be introduced to this yoghurt-milk blend only after five days of age. Initially, they should be given warm ewe or cow colostrum for two days, followed by a warm milk replacer for the next three days. From the seventh day onwards, a gradual shift from warm to cold feeding can be made.

For those rearing lambs where abomasal bloat is a recurrent issue, considering whey-based milk powder as an alternative to whole milk might be beneficial. This powder typically doesn’t cause bloat and can further aid rumen development, especially if lambs can access high-quality pellets or hard feed.