Sometimes, you might need to bottle feed a baby Lamb. Lambs may be orphaned if the mother dies in birth or, on occasion, if a mother simply rejects a baby for no discernible reason. You need to begin bottle feeding as soon as possible to make sure the lamb survives. There is certain protocol you need to follow while feeding a lamb.
EditPreparing the Formula
- See a vet. If you need to bottle feed your lamb, you likely found a lamb orphaned or had one of your ewes reject a lamb. You should take the lamb to the vet's first before attempting to treat the lamb yourself. The vet will be able to tell you exactly what the lamb needs in terms of care and help you find the proper milk and colostrum replacers to feed your lamb and assure she gets all the vitamins and minerals she needs.
- Obtain colostrum replacer. Colostrum is the first type of milk a ewe produces after giving birth. It's vital to the health and well-being of a lamb.
- Colostrum is important because it contains high levels of nutrients and also protects against a variety of infectious agents. Lambs do not carry antibodies at birth, so they need colostrum to help them develop antibodies and combat potential infections.
- Lambs should receive 10% of their body weight in colostrum after birth. That means a 10 pound lamb should consume 1 pound of colostrum during the first 24 hours of life. If your lamb has been abandoned or rejected by her mother, get her colostrum replacer as soon as possible. In fact, if you raise lambs, it's a good idea to have colostrum replacer on hand at all times in the event of an emergency.
- Colostrum replacer should be sold at most places that sell livestock feed and equipment.
- Buy lamb milk replacer. Your lamb will need milk replacer for roughly the first 13 weeks of life.
- Lamb milk replacer can also be purchased at a store that sells livestock feed. Once opened, keep it in a sealed gallon jar. Placing a few bay leaves on top of the jar can prevent insect infestations.
- Make sure the milk replacer is specifically for lambs. Do not try to substitute milk replacer with products for cows as these have different nutrients and vitamins and will not keep a lamb healthy.
- Make your own formula, if necessary. If you cannot find milk replacer or colostrum replacer, you can make your own at home. It's recommended you try to find store bought brands first, as they're more likely to have the proper nutrients, so only resort to homemade products as a last resort.
- Colostrum replacer can be made by mixing 740 milliliters of cow's milk, one beaten egg, a teaspoon of cod liver oil, and a teaspoon of glucose together. It can also be made with 600 milliliters of cow's milk, a teaspoon of castor oil, and one beaten egg.
- Milk formula can be made with a teaspoon of butter, a teaspoon of dark corn syrup, a can of evaporated milk, and oral and liquid baby lamb vitamins you can purchase at a feed store.
- Prepare the bottle. A lamb should be fed with an 8 ounce baby bottle with a rubber nipple.
- Initially, you should fill the bottle with 10% of the baby lamb's weight in colostrum and feed this to the lamb within its first 24 hours. Feed the lamb every two hours, if possible, during this timeframe.
- After the initial colostrum feeding, your lamb will need 140 milliliters of milk replacer. Measure out the proper amount into the bottle and heat the bottle until it's warm to the touch but not scalding, much like you would heat a baby's bottle.
- Sterilize the bottles and nipples regularly with Milton sterilizing solution or a baby's steam sterilizer. Any milk residue is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Do not use bleach because it will ruin the nipples.
EditFeeding the Lamb
- Form a feeding schedule. Once you get past the initial 24 hour period, you should set and follow a feeding schedule for your lamb.
- For the first 24 hours after receiving the colostrum, lambs should be fed 140 milliliters every four hours. After this, feed your lamb 200 milligrams four times a day. Your lamb should still be fed about every four hours. Keep track of what times you feed your lamb and make sure to get a feeding in at the proper intervals.
- Once 2 weeks pass, you can begin gradually upping the amount of milk you feed your lamb.
- As previously stated, heat the milk replacer first so it is warm to the touch without being scalding.
- Hold the lamb's head up, allowing her to stand, and let her feed. Once you have the milk measured and prepared, you can feed your lamb.
- Lambs should feed standing up. Do not cuddle or hold your lamb while bottle feeding as this could result in a clot in her lung.
- Most lambs will suckle instinctively. If your lamb is not suckling, pressing the bottle's nipple against her lips should encourage her to feed.
- Add fresh water, hay, and grass after the first week. After a week of bottle feeding with colostrum and then milk, your lamb should have some solid foods in her diet.
- Give the lamb fresh water, hay, and grass. Let her eat and drink as she desires.
- If she's strong enough, let her out to graze with the rest of the flock so she can begin socializing with other sheep.
- Increase the feeding amount every two weeks. You should increase the amount of milk your lamb gets as she grows.
- After two weeks of feeding her 200 milligrams four times a day, gradually build her up to 500 ml four times a day.
- After another two weeks, gradually increase the feeding amount to 700 ml a day four times a week.
- After 5 or 6 weeks, begin decreasing the amount of milk. Cut back to 500 ml grams a day only two times a day.
- Make sure your lamb is weaned off milk by 13 weeks. By the time your lamb is 13 weeks old, she should be completely free of milk and transitioned into a diet of hay, feed, grass, and water. Make sure you keep track of time and stick on your schedule to gradually decrease feedings starting at 5 to 6 weeks.
- Monitor a lamb after a meal to make sure she's gotten enough to eat. You need to make sure your lamb is not being over or under fed. There are several ways to make sure a lamb has received an adequate meal.
- At the end of a meal, a lamb's sides should be straight from the hips to the rib. This is ideal, as it means your lamb has had an appropriate amount of food.
- If you notice your lamb's sides are puffed out after feeding, reduce the amount of milk in the next meal as you likely overfed her.
- Take measures to prevent hypothermia. Lambs are often bottle fed because they're orphaned or abandoned. If a lamb cannot rely on the body heat of a flock, her body heat might become dangerously low and hypothermia could result. There are measures you can take to prevent hypothermia.
- A lamb in the beginning states of hypothermia will appear weak, gaunt, and will probably be hunched over. A rectal thermometer can be used to confirm a low body heat. A normal lamb will have a body heat of 102-103 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than this can be a sign of a problem.
- Wrap your lamb in a towel to warm her. You can also use a hair dryer to warm a lamb. You can also buy a lamb jacket, a device meant to stay on a lamb's body overnight. Heat lamps are not advised as they can cause fires in a barn.
- Keep your barn free of drafts, especially in the winter months.
- Guard against pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common problem in lambs, especially those that need to be bottle fed as they do not always get the proper antibodies to fight off bacteria even with colostrum replacers.
- Pneumonia is marked by respiratory problems, an increased heart rate, and fever. Lambs suffering from pneumonia might not want to nurse.
- Drafts and dampness are the primary causes of pneumonia. Keep a clean, dry barn free of drafts to prevent pneumonia in your lambs.
- If your lamb develops pneumonia, get antibiotics from a veterinarian and administer them as soon as possible.
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