Southern Rangitikei Veterinary Services
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Hypocalcaemia in sheep

Hypocalcaemia (milk fever) refers to a low blood calcium level.  Heavily pregnant ewes require calcium for many functions, includting muscle contraction, development of the foetal skeleton and milk production.  Ewes are reliant on receiving calcium either through their diet or mobilising calcium from their skeleton.  Milk fever will commonly occur in the couple of weeks leading up to lambing, but can occur post-lambing during lactation.

Signs to look for:

  • Ewes will staffer and progress to becoming cast
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • When down, they will often have their head positioned around towards their flank

Treatment of affected ewes involves giving calcium borogluconate under the skin.  The response is usually rapid, with the ewe showing signs of being bright and alert within about 30 minutes.  It is often advised to treat sleepy sickness and milk fever as the same as they can be difficult to distinguish from each other.

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