How to wean an orphan sheep from a milk replacer

Orphaned or abandoned lambs occur every year for a wide variety of reasons. Many ewes will give birth to triplets or quadruplets and simply not have enough milk so they will abandon the baby or the lamb will not thrive. Lambs can be successfully hand-reared using artificial milk replacer. Weaning from the artificial milk replacer begins when the lamb reaches four weeks of age. Some people prefer to wait until the lamb is eight weeks of age before beginning the weaning process, because they feel the added growth allows the lamb to remain healthy.

Provide the lamb with creep feed, also called lamb starter, from the moment you begin to feed milk replacer at approximately five days of age. The lamb will probably not eat the creep feed but will lick small amounts of it from the bottom of a feed trough. Lambs naturally lick things for taste. Ideally, the creep feed should contain 20 per cent protein, according to Oregon State University. It is popular to use a creep feed that is 50 per cent soybean for lambs. Creep feed can also be purchased that contains small amounts of molasses, which tastes sweet to the lamb and encourages it to eat. Creep feeds can be purchased at feed stores.

Place the creep feeder trough in an area where other lambs congregate and eat. The lamb will learn by watching the other lambs eat every day. A light should be placed by the creep feeder or in the creep feeder. The lamb's natural curiosity will attract it to the light to investigate the creep. If the ewes are present with the other lambs and the bottle-feeding lambs, make sure the creep feeder is placed where the ewes cannot eat all the food. The space for the lambs to reach the creep feeder should be no more then eight to 12 inches wide, which will allow only the lambs to squeeze in and eat the creep feed.

Change the creep feed every day and provide the lamb with fresh water. The feed needs to always be kept clean and sanitary. Since the lambs lick the creep feed, the creep can become stuck together and an ideal area for bacteria to grow. Every day the trough should be thoroughly cleaned and new creep feed added.

Bottle-feed the lamb using supplemental milk at the same time you provide the creep feed. When the lamb reaches weaning age, it should be consuming 225 grams of creep or more, according to the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency.

Wean the lamb between four to eight weeks of age. Weaning should take place when the lamb weighs approximately 11.3 Kilogram, according to the Navajo Sheep Project. Cease providing a milk replacer for the lamb. Provide only creep feed and fresh water.

Add good quality alfalfa to the lamb's diet when the lamb is consuming one pound of creep per day. Make sure the alfalfa or hay has at least 12 per cent crude protein and is at least 55 per cent digestible. The lamb should be chewing its cud and have pebbled droppings, which indicates that weaning is moving forward successfully and the lamb is able to digest its food.


Vaccinate lambs the first week that milk replacer is being used and two weeks before weaning with Clostridium perfringens, types C and D. The vaccinations can be purchased at a feed store or administered by a veterinarian.

Things You'll Need

  • Creep feed/lamb starter
  • Creep feeder/trough
  • Alfalfa
  • Hay
  • Clostridium perfringens, types C and D
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Based in Oregon, Kimberly Sharpe has been a writer since 2006. She writes for numerous online publications. Her writing has a strong focus on home improvement, gardening, parenting, pets and travel. She has traveled extensively to such places as India and Sri Lanka to widen and enhance her writing and knowledge base.