Although there is little research to
substantiate why FKS occurs, we are convinced it was because of our feed.
With kidding and lambing seasons quickly approaching, this is a good time to reevaluate the feed our animals are consuming. Many areas had less than optimum growing conditions last haying season and that means livestock could be lacking in some areas.
A few years ago we were feeding hay that was harvested late in a wet fall. We didn’t feed test. First mistake. We took the word of the producer that it was a certain moisture level, etc., and bought it. That was the second mistake. We were just starting out and were inexperienced and it cost us a lot of work and could have been a potential loss of a kid crop.
That was the year of Floppy Kid Syndrome (FKS). The important difference between a kid or lamb that is selenium deficient (White Muscle Disease) and FKS is that at birth a FKS kid or lamb would be completely normal, active, sucking and energetic in all ways. Other diseases that can be mistaken for FKS are white muscle disease, abomasal bloat, colibacillosis, septicemia and enterotoxaemia. The discerning factor is that with all of these other conditions, the kids or lambs are usually slow from birth. Or, in the case of enterotoxaemia, symptoms appear at a much older age. FKS usually manifests at about three to 10 days of age. The first symptom is that the kid or lamb will have an unsteady gait and be weak. Its head will bob from side to side, and it will be unable to stand.
Affected kids and lambs progress to a state where they cannot use their tongues to suckle, but can swallow if tube fed. The other clinical signs are similar to those of infant botulism, which is why some literature states that clostridial type AE is involved.
Our herds are all vaccinated with broad spectrum clostridial vaccines and we still had the outbreak. Our veterinarian said the cause is not really known. Kids exhibiting FKS symptoms have no sign of diarrhea (at the onset), respiratory diseases or any other symptoms that would suggest other organs are affected. If they have progressed to the point where they cannot move, when you pick them up they are extremely limp and their stomachs will slosh because they have stopped digesting milk. This is why we found that keeping kids and lambs temporarily off milk is
probably the single most important part of the treatment. The acidity in the stomach needs to be neutralized.
We neutralized their stomachs by giving them a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) solution. To make the bicarbonate solution, dissolve one teaspoon (five ml) of baking soda in enough water to make a 10 to 20 ml solution. This solution can either be given by bottle or tube fed, depending on the condition of the kid or lamb you are treating. This should be repeated two to three times within the following three to six hours. We have found that 15 ml of Pepto-Bismol given once at the onset of symptoms is an effective alternative.
The first sign that the kid or lamb is recovering is when they become more active and pass very solid feces. These usually turn to diarrhea (which if you use Pepto-Bismol can be greenish), which is good because the bacterium is moving out of the system. Keep them on electrolytes (high energy variety) till this all settles. Our vet recommended using electrolytes until the gut stopped sounding sloshy and the kid or lamb was walking well for about 24 hours.
We do not have a hospital area in the barn to keep kids and lambs away from their dams, so our answer was to bring them in the house. Every two hours while we checked for new arrivals we also checked for any staggering babies. We would catch them, bring them in the house and treat them. One of the signs they were ready to eat and be with their dam was when they could run away on the linoleum floor. The most we had in the house at one time was fifteen. The year FKA hit us, we had 70 kids born and all but two had to be treated. We lost three. They were laid on because they couldn’t get up.
We have been reminiscing about this problem because a lot of feed this year will not be prime, and we’re getting close to kidding and lambing. Although there is little research to substantiate why FKS occurs, we are convinced it was because of our feed. The season after out FKS experience, we made sure we had a high quality mineral for them to eat and the best hay we could afford. The only problem we had was when we ran out of minerals for about five days. We had two cases of FKS and it stopped when we restocked. We noticed that year it was the little ones that were most interested in the mineral pans. Since then we haven’t had any more problems, but we want to be ready for it this year.
The steps we’ll take to minimize problems at kidding and lambing this year are simple. First, we’ll vaccinate with a clostridial vaccine, such as Tasvax 8, at least four weeks prior to lambing and kidding. At the same time, we will boost our vitamin levels by administering E-Master to all the dams. The vet recommends we do this at least four weeks prior to the first possible due date so that the colostrum has adequate levels of antibodies and vitamins. He also recommends administering a selenium shot to all babies at birth.
If we do all of this and a kid or lamb starts to exhibit any FKS symptoms, we can be fairly confident what we are dealing with.
Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Man.
Email her at [email protected]