Newborn lambs are freezing

Millions of Australian lambs won't survive their first winter. Meanwhile, a controversial genetic manipulation could change their fate — but not in the way you'd hope...

LAST UPDATED: 19 July 2021

For a tiny lamb born in an icy paddock, life means bone-chilling cold. Too small and weak to keep warm, her mother's efforts to protect her from the wind and rain often aren't enough. She'll only live for a few days.

The Australian meat and wool industry already accepts that up to one in four lambs will die from exposure annually. With industry standards not even requiring full shelter, these young lambs and their mums are effectively left unprotected from the elements. Estimates of how many Australian lambs die range from 10 million to as many as 15 million (paywall) every year.

Australian lamb dead in paddock

Now, in a push to increase profit margins, a controversial technology is being introduced to ensure mother sheep have even more multiple births. Twins and triplets are already not uncommon, and this genetic manipulation can lead to up to six lambs from each birth.

Professor Geoff Hinch says that the genetic program involves "highly stressed" mother sheep and lambs "being pushed to their limits". Not only does it put enormous physical strain on a mother sheep to give birth to so many lambs, but each lamb is usually smaller and even more likely to perish from exposure.

Many in the meat and wool industry, however, accept these cruel deaths because the overall number of lambs born is higher.

The old saying goes 'where there's livestock there's dead stock', so the more livestock you've got the more dead stock you've got.Simon Teate, sheep farmer (quoted in ABC Rural)

How you can save lambs

Lambs are freezing because of demand for meat and wool. You can help protect lambs from suffering by joining the growing number of Australians making simple, everyday kind choices for animals.


Meet Karina, lamb rescuer

Thankfully, caring people like Karina from Lamb Care Australia are spreading kindness and saving lives by giving freezing winter lambs the love and care they deserve. Watch Karina's story:


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