What to feed a baby lamb?

Updated April 17, 2017

Although ideally a baby lamb will be with its mother, you might find yourself in a position where you have to feed a lamb. A lamb can survive and live a healthy life if it is hand fed as long as it is done properly. Knowing what to feed and at what points to feed it is critical to the lamb's well-being.


There are three basic types of food that a lamb will eat while it was young. The first kind of food is milk. The second is hay and other vegetation. The third is grain. When feeding milk, it is ideal to give the lamb its mother's milk. If possible, milk the ewe and put that in the lamb's bottle. If the mother's milk is not available, lamb formulas can be purchased.

Time Frame

A lamb will drink milk for the first several weeks of its life. The time frame when it begins to eat solid food will vary. Watch the lamb when it is out in the pasture to see when it starts testing the grass. Lambs will nibble on grass just a few days after they are born, but they won't actually begin eating it until later. Once you notice that they are actually eating the grass, you can start giving them alfalfa. Observe the lamb to see how much alfalfa it eats. Once it begins eating more alfalfa and drinking less of the milk you offer it, you can start giving it small amounts of grain. Begin with a lamb starter feed and move to a high-protein feed as it gets older. You do not want to give it too much grain at a time, or it may get an upset stomach. Once the lamb starts eating grain, you can begin gradually weaning it off of the milk.


As previously mentioned, it is most ideal for a lamb to be fed by its own mother. Hand-feeding a lamb allows you to monitor the lamb's food intake and control its diet. You can make sure it that it is getting enough to eat, whereas sometimes when a ewe is a poor mother, the lamb does not get all the nourishment it needs. One of the main benefits to hand-feeding a lamb is that bottle-fed lambs are generally much friendlier than lambs who are fed by their mothers. If you are raising a lamb to show or as a pet, this is a desirable trait.


Newborn lambs need to be fed at least every three hours in order to survive. If you are going to bottle feed a lamb, you have to be committed to it, otherwise the lamb will die. It is important to pay attention to the lamb, because they may want to eat more often than every three hours. You must be available to feed the lamb if it is ready to eat.


In general, if a lamb is fed properly, you will not be able to tell the difference between a bottle-fed lamb and one fed by its mother by the time they are a year old. However, you may notice a difference when the lambs are young. A bottle-fed baby will often be smaller than other lambs, and may not look as filled out. You may also notice a difference in the lamb's behaviour. Typically a bottle-fed lamb will be more inclined to spend its time with people than with other lambs. If you are raising it with other lambs, this might change as it gets older, but sometimes it does not.

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