Artificial Rearing of Lambs

Orphan lambs can be successfully raised on milk replacer, goat's milk, and, occasionally, cow's milk. However, cow's milk contains less fat than ewe's milk. Milk goats can raise several orphan lambs each. Commercial milk replacers are available for lambs. These contain 30 to 32 percent fat, 22 to 24 percent crude protein, and 22 to 25 percent lactose. Do not use calf milk replacer on lambs.

If only a few lambs are to be raised on milk replacer, they can be bottle fed, if labor is available. However, they must be fed every four hours during the first week and then every six to eight hours until they are weaned.

With newly developed systems, it is possible to feed several lambs at the same time. A milk dispensing system provides milk free-choice. In this situation, mix a new batch of milk replacer each day. Generally, milk-feeding systems use the lam-bar nipple (a rubber teat connected to a polyethylene tube). The teats are connected through a hole in a metal plate inside the lamb pen panel with tubes leading to a bucket of milk outside the pen. As the lambs stop nursing, there is no leakage from the nipple because the milk returns to the bucket by gravity flow.

Research shows that feeding cold milk is much more beneficial than feeding warm milk when the lambs are on a self-feeding system. The cold milk is not as likely to spoil and lambs do not overeat, so they have fewer digestive disorders. Keep the milk cold by placing plastic jugs full of ice in the feeding unit.

Offer creep feed to the lambs soon after they have started on liquid milk replacer. Soybean meal is an excellent feedstuff to include in creep feed for very young lambs. The starter creep should contain 17 to 20 percent protein. Ordinarily, lambs are weaned from the milk replacer in four to six weeks.