Abandoned, extra or orphan lambs happen in many flocks at lambing time for one reason or another. Ewes may die during or right after birth, produce insufficient milk or have a multiple birth and need help caring for the extra lamb. Feeding an orphaned lamb properly will help ensure his health and growth.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Try to foster the orphaned or extra lamb onto another nursing ewe that has enough milk to raise another lamb. The best way to get a ewe to accept a foster lamb is to rub the fetal membrane and fluids of the ewe's own lamb onto the foster. For older lambs, put the ewe in a head stanchion for several days so she will not be able to push the lamb away.
Give an orphaned lamb colostrum as soon after birth as possible. The colostrum contains important antibodies for the new lamb. Give the lamb 3 ounces of colostrum per pound of body weight over several feedings or if you have less on hand, as close to that amount as possible. Give three feedings of the colostrum over a 12 to 18 hour period.
Decide whether you will feed the lamb by hand or through self-feeders. Self feeders allow lambs to eat whenever they are hungry. This frees up labor requirements and allows for many orphaned lambs to be fed at the same time, but it does require more equipment.
Begin liquid milk replacer four to five hours after giving the colostrum. Use a milk replacer made for lambs and follow the manufacturer's directions. Look for a mixture that has around 30 percent fat, 23 percent protein and 23 percent lactose. Milk replacers made for other animals will not contain the right amount of these parts nor will cow's milk. Goat's milk can be used for orphaned lambs.
Feed lambs every six hours during the first three to five days of their lives. After that, a lamb can be fed two or three times a day. Self-feeders should be given the same amount of food as a bottle fed lamb, but it should be provided to them at all times. Milk should be fed cold at an appropriate amount for their age.
Tips and warnings
- Periodically freeze some colostrum to create a backup supply for use on orphaned lambs.
- Goat's milk can be used for orphaned lambs.
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