Microsoft word - orphan_lamb1.doc

Rearing Orphan Lambs
1. Adoption by Foster Mother
You will need a ewe that has just recently given birth
Either: (a) Confine ewe and lamb
(b) Rub head of lamb in birthing fluids from the ewe (c) Drape ewe’s lamb’s skin over the orphan lamb
2. Rearing by Handfeeding
First Priority- Provide shelter, feed and warmth (gentle warm air or hot water bottles).
Initiate Feeding
If the ewe was removed or it deserted the lamb within 24 hrs- the lamb will require colostrum
to develop immunity to diseases, as a laxative and a concentrated nutrient source.
(Colostrum is the thick rich milk available from the ewe in the first two days after lambing)
Lambs that don’t receive colostrum, their survival rate is only 50%, they will often be
unthrifty, and are more susceptible to diseases.
Feed colostrum 75-100 ml 6 hourly for 3 feeds. If the lamb is very small or is not inclined to
suck for long from a teat on a bottle, feed less and more often until the lamb gains a strong
suckling reflex. If the lamb is particularly weak, you may need to feed by stomach tubing.
Colostrum may be obtained by milking the lamb’s mother or any ewe that has recently
lambed (up to 250mls of colostrum can be taken from a ewe without detriment to her own
lamb). Milk the ewe within 2 hrs of lambing. . Colostrum collected may be frozen for several
months for later use when the opportunity occurs, by thawing in water at 37◦C.
Alternative sources of colostrum are from freshly calved cows
Artificial colostrum can be made up (which does not contain antibodies) is 680 ml cow’s
milk, 1 beaten egg, 5 ml cod liver oil and 10 ml glucose but there are also many other similar

Liquid feeding is required for the first few weeks of life as the intake of solids generally
won’t begin until the lambs are 3 weeks old.
Ewe’s milk contains more fat than cows’ milk but cow’s milk can be made similar to ewes’
milk by adding 25 g full cream powdered milk to 400ml cows’ milk. If using full cream
powdered milk, use 250 g of powder added to 1 litre of water. There are also commercial milk
replacer products for feeding lambs eg Di-vetelac®, Veanavite®.
The most common problems in feeding lambs are those of feeding too much too infrequently
(Never more than 600mls/feed). The amount to feed depends on breed and size of lamb. As a

A rough guide of amount to feed per day if you don’t know the age of the lamb is 10% body
weight per day. For example:
A 4kg lamb would need 400grams or 400mls of milk.
Temperature of milk
Give warm milk (37◦C) at least for the first week, then very gradually change to cold milk if
Hard feed
Pellets or crumbles (lamb or calf) can be introduced from 2 weeks of age but they should be
changed regularly so they are always fresh.
Early introduction to solid feeds e.g. fibre and concentrates, will aid rumen development so
they can be weaned early at about 6-10 weeks.
- Minimum of 4 weeks of age (onto concentrate feed) - Minimum of 6 weeks of age (onto pasture) Preferably wean lambs at a minimum of 8 weeks of age.
Wean the lamb(s) by shortening the feeding time or reduce the amount of milk given.
Weight gain
Aim for at least:
Merino- 6kg on the first 3 weeks of life Scouring
Often follows in a lamb that has not had colostrum. If the lamb is otherwise well, is growing
and shows no other problems then ignore it or reduce the feeding slightly. If there is an
obvious problem then halve or withdraw the milk ration and replace temporarily with an
electrolyte replacer. If the cause is infectious then antibiotic treatment may be indicated eg
neomycin/tetracycline soluble powder in the milk ration.

Sometimes occurs after bottle fed lambs get to about 3-4 weeks, the number of feeds is
reduced to two per day and the lambs guzzle their bottle milk. It is caused by Sarcina spp
multiplying in the gut. Treatment is by slowing the drinking rate eg by a smaller teat orifice
and/or feeding the milk cold.


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