Hypothermia, which literally means ‘temperature below normal’, occurs when too much body heat is lost or too little body heat is produced, and the result is a drop in body temperature.
Newborn lambs cannot regulate their body temperature so succumb to hypothermia very quickly. Usually born across the coldest months of the year, hypothermia is inevitable in lambs that have not received adequate colostrum, because they lack the energy stores to maintain their body heat. Lambs are born with a store of brown fat around the heart and kidneys. This is their only source of energy during their first hours, and they use it up quickly. If they don’t get colostrum within those hours, their bodies will be deprived of energy and heat, Hypothermia will ensue.
Hypothermia puts a huge strain on a baby’s organs. Depending on the stage of organ shutdown, recovery may or may not be possible. When hypothermic lambs arrive into care they are initially put into a warming bath to raise their body temperature slowly. An Intensive Care Unit, if available, is also of great assistance in providing the same care.