Metabolic Disorders in Sheep

14 months ago

Sleepy Sickness

Sleepy sickness occurs due to high energy requirements of the ewe and commonly affects those carrying twins or triplets, overweight, underweight, or older ewes. Her body begins to absorb body fat for energy and in doing this, toxic ketones are produced as a by-product.

Signs you will see may include:

  • Aimless, staggered walking
  • Not eating, grinding teeth
  • Apparent blindness, twitchy eyes and ears
  • Sweet, sickly smell of breath and milk
  • Separating herself from herd, looking dull
  • Eventually going down 

Contact your vet if you notice any of these symptoms, they can provide you with advice and the correct drug to administer. Provide her with shelter and warmth to help her metabolise drugs, speed up recovery and so you can monitor her.


Milk Fever (Hypocalcaemia)

Milk fever is a deficiency in calcium caused by sudden change in feed, stress from a sudden weather event or yarding and can occur before and after lambing.

  • They will be weak and wobbly on their feet, may be lying down with head turned to the side.
  • Have glassy eyes

These ewes need glucose, calcium, and magnesium immediately as their condition can decline rapidly. Contact your vet for a product that contains all of these and get her into a warm, sheltered environment.


Grass Staggers

This is due to low magnesium levels accompanied by low calcium levels. Normally due to low magnesium levels in lush spring grass or mineral imbalances in feed.

You will see:

  • The ewe will appear nervous/ excitable and have a spastic gait
  • Twitchy facial muscles
  • Sitting on her knees
  • Unable to get up, the back is arched with legs paddling or stiff

Your vet will be able to provide you with the right product and advice.