Bottle Lamb Feeding and Scheduling

We have been busy the last couple weeks, we have had to bottle feed twin baby lambs. While it is our first time doing twins, we still wanted to put together resources to reference back in the future. Things are a lot easier to recall if they are already spelled out for you! Raising bottle lambs can be very stressful and very tiring, but the lambs grow quick and the reward is seeing healthy lambs that would otherwise fail to thrive.

Items Required:

  • Hygiene items such as iodine for navel/cord, gloves, clippers
  • Large-sized dog crate or other holding area with hay or blankets
  • Baby lamb bottle, minimum 1
  • Stomach tube with 60cc syringe
  • Kitchen weight scale
  • Scale for baby lambs
  • Colostrum and/or milk replacers

How much to feed based on lamb weight

After following basic “clip, strip, dip” and discovering the mother ewe is not able to deliver enough milk, remove the baby lambs when possible. Set up a large dog crate or other holding area with bedding to keep the baby lamb. If the baby lamb is safe and hungry, time to set a schedule for feeding. Baby lambs should be fed 10%-20% of their body weight every day. Find the weight of the lamb using the scale, round to the nearest weight in lbs or ounces. Then select the amount you will aim to feed the lamb in 24 hours.

Based on the age of the lamb, divide out the amount that is going to be fed by the number of feedings to get the amount to feed per time. Note that there is a wide variety of recommendations for the number of feedings to give to a lamb. We prefer smaller, more frequent feedings to help prevent bloat or overfeeding in any one feed session. At night, you can stretch the time to 4 to 5 hours for the first week. By day 8, you can stretch the time from the night to morning feeding to 6 to 8 hours at night if they are doing well.

Mix milk replacers based on the package instructions. Always store unused milk in the refrigerator or discard. Clean all utensils after each feeding with warm, soapy water and leave to air-dry.

Note on Colostrum, aka Day 1 feeding:

Lambs must get colostrum as soon as possible after birth. However, never give a lamb colostrum if it is unresponsive. The lamb must be conscious, warm, and able to suckle on their own. If the lamb is suffering from hypothermia or is unresponsive follow recommended treatments and call a veterinarian for advice.

The lamb must get at least 10% of their body weight in colostrum, and receive 5% of that within 4 to 8 hours, within the first 24 hours of life. 20% of their body weight is the maximum amount for the day. It can come from the mother ewe, if possible, or colostrum replacer or supplement. Follow package instructions for mixing and warming colostrum before feeding it to the lamb. A stomach tube can be used to get the first colostrum into the lamb, and to make sure they receive the bare minimum amount. After that, use a bottle.

Introducing Dry Foods

If the lambs were with their mom, they would be on the pasture within the first week of life at Amestris Mars Ranch; and in the barn, there would be hay to nibble and munch on since the first day. Gradually introducing dry foods will help the rumen transition to a grass-fed diet and allow for weaning the lamb sooner. Fresh water should be given and if you are able, a separate pen area for the lambs away from the adults. Some hay or rations can be given in the beginning to get them familiar with the foods, gradually increasing the amount until they are mostly eating that; then the weaning process can begin. The lambs will experience stress from sudden take-away of milk or even a gradual take-away of milk, but if they are mostly eating dry foods they will be fine after a few days and eat that and become responsible for feeding themselves.

Resources:

Sheep 201: Artificially rearing lambs

Lamb Care Guide (Australia)

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