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orphan lamb
Feeding an Orphaned Lamb
Instructions for how to bottle feed lambs (works for goat kids and piglets too!)
By Quaker Anne

I don't claim to be an expert. The following information and techniques
are based on our over 25 years of experience and have proven successful at our farm. It is interesting to note that some of the most successful and certainly most friendly 4-H livestock projects our children ever worked with were bottle fed lambs, dairy goats, piglets.
Video is first, text and pictures are below.

How to Bottle Feed an Orphan Lamb Video
(lamb runs after Willow the Collie at the end - very cute!)
turn off page sound to hear video by pressing the x above. You can also view this video at The Quaker Kitchen site without background sound.

When raising sheep, it is best to be prepared for day you will encounter an orphaned lamb, also known as a bummer lamb. A lamb can become orphaned in the obvious case of a ewe dying, but, they are sometimes orphaned for no apparent reason when their mother rejects them and refuses to allow them to nurse. This can happen in the case of a maiden ewe (first time mother), or a multiple birth (twins or more), a ewe who doesn't produce enough milk or, for reasons never to be apparent. Occasionally, a ewe becomes agressive about rejecting her lamb and forcefully butts the baby away. Injury can easily result in this case. The situation should be noted as soon as possible after birth so that intervention can be swift and successful.

The first and most important thing you will do is be prepared. The time to acquire your supplies is not in the middle of the night when you need them. Think ahead. There aren't many things to acquire but you want your supplies gathered together into one place - such as a designated tool box - and stored for easy access and handy use.

Supplies should include:
plactic soda bottle and lambar nipple

  • Nipples. They come in several types but we prefer using lambar nipples so we can transfer them from a bottle to a lamb nurser using the same nipple they are familiar with. DO NOT clean your bottle nipples with a bleach solution no matter how mild it is. Bleach will ruin them.

  • Clean feeding bottle. A small 12 ounce soda bottle is best at first, keep the cap so you can store unused amounts in the refrigerator between feedings. After about a week you might want to change to a 2 liter soda bottle.

  • Milk Replacer. Dry, fresh or frozen. DO NOT use calf milk replacer or any milk replacer made with soy protein. Newborn animals can not digest soy protein easily if at all, so they wind up starving to death on a full stomach. Use only the best quality powdered milk replacer made specifically for lambs - it is made with milk that you should have good success using it. Also, try to find someone in your area who raises goats and ask to purchase a pint of colostrum which you can freeze. One method that works well is to freeze fresh colostrum in an ice cube tray, remove cubes as soon as frozen and store them in a double freezer bag or thick, tightly sealed container. Then you can use a few (4 or 5) cubes of this liquid gold as an initial first feeding then add 2 or 3 cubes to a cup of formula made with powdered lamb milk replacer. This provides a great start to a baby unable to have colostrum directly from its mother.

  • Clean bath towel to cover your lap and use as a baby napkin.

    Basically, what you are going to do is teach a lamb to accept being bottle fed. With gentle encouragement and patient, loving persistence, the new baby will master the knack of it in as little as a few minutes or at most a day or two.

    The initial acceptance of being bottle fed has a lot to do with the age a lamb is introduced to a bottle in the first place. If a lamb is a day or two old and has already nursed on its mother, it takes a bit longer for them to make the adjustment to a nipple. Ideally, you want the baby to nurse on its mother at least once and get a good feeding of colostrum. Colostrum is the precious first milk that is produced only in the first 48 hours after birth which is full of important antibodies that newborns must have, if at all possible, to help protect them from infectious organisms. Colostrum also is very high in fat, protein (up to 8 times more than normal ewe milk) and nutrients and it has a important laxative effect on newborns that helps them pass their first stool (bowel movement) known as meconium.

    The most difficult part for the lamb during this learning process is the unfamiliarity of a thick rubber object being inserted into its mouth. Artificial nipples are not only considerably larger than a natural mama's, but they also have an unpleasant taste and texture being synthetic. Understanding this will help you to be more gentle about the process of adjustment for the baby.

    To begin, hold a lamb securely on your lap on top of your towel. He may struggle a bit for a moment but be firm in holding him and he will settle in.

    stroke the lamb's muzzle Next we gently stroke his muzzle to encourage him to relax and to initiate the sucking reflex. This is a comforting exercise that helps the infant focus on the task at hand.

    orphan lamb relaxes When this is done correctly and for long enough...

    Continued in
    Bottle Feeding and Orphan Lamb PART 2