Common Lamb Sicknesses & What To Do About Them

Coughing, slow feeding and weakness are all symptoms of a sick lamb. To help improve lamb survival rate it is important to be aware of diseases, infections and health problems that can affect lambs and know how to prevent them from occurring.


Arthritis in lambs is caused when bacterium that are present on the skin, in faecal material or in the soil enter the lamb via a wound and then lodge in the joints. Young lambs are most susceptible.

Preventative measures include choosing a lambing paddock with minimal contamination and maintaining a high standard of hygiene at marking.

There are two main types of bloat that occur in lambs that have similar symptoms but different causes: abomasal bloat and frothy bloat.

Abomasal bloat usually affects bottle fed lambs while frothy bloat occurs when lambs have been put on pasture that is too rich. Preventative measures for frothy bloat include avoiding grazing high risk pastures and good pasture management.

In cold and wet weather, lambs are susceptible to hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when a lamb’s body temperature falls below the normal range of around 38 – 39.5°C.

Preventative measures for hypothermia include choosing lambing paddocks with good natural shelter.

Pneumonia is most common in artificially reared lambs and lambs in confinement lots and occurs due to a combination of factors such as bacteria, environmental conditions, and the lamb’s physical condition and immune system.

Preventative measures include ensuring that shelter and pens are kept clean and are not overcrowded.

  • Scours

There are two types of scours; nutritional scours which often occur in hand reared lambs and are caused by diet, and infectious scours which are caused by bacteria and parasites such as coccidiosis.

Preventative measures against coccidiosis include minimising stress, providing adequate nutrition and maintaining good hygiene in confined areas.

Lamb starvation can occur early on in a lamb’s life often due to feeding problems caused by damaged teats or udders.

Preventative measures include reducing damage at shearing and crutching, and culling ewes with damaged udders and teats.

  • Tetanus

“Tetanus is a clostridial disease that mostly affects lambs within three weeks of marking. Most cases of tetanus occur in flocks with inadequate vaccination program.”

Symptoms of tetanus include stiffness and muscle spasms and usually results in death due to paralysis of the breathing muscles.

Preventative measures include vaccination and good hygiene at marking.


Useful Biosecurity Resources

Practicing good hygiene and maintaining biosecurity is essential to preventing disease and sickness.

Animal diseases

Moving livestock and animals

Farm biosecurity toolkit

Report a biosecurity incident


You Might Also Like

Common calf sicknesses & how a calf shelter can help

How weather affects sheep

Is your shearing shed design for worker safety?

Share this article!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter


Receive our quality news updates & catalogue.