Monday, February 13, 2017

Shepherdess Notes: Raising Bottle Lambs

(this is a post from 2014 edited and reposted)

Some years we have no bottle lambs, some years we have several. The start of our 2017 lambing season, we already have one. The ewe is a wonderful mother, but one side of her udder is not producing milk. (assuming from previous case of mastitis, this is her first  year lambing here)

There are several reasons you may end up with a bottle lamb.

Ewe rejects the lamb. 
We do what we can to remedy this. I will put the ewe and her babies in a a pen.
If the mother pushes the lambs away or refuses to let them nurse, I will put a halter on the ewe and tie her up so she cannot move her head and I will let the lambs nurse. If the ewe is not aggressive towards the lambs, I will keep the lambs with her in the pen.
I will go out every couple of hours and make sure the lambs are eating. Even if it means that I have to continue tying her up each time. The lambs need the colostrum that they get from their mothers the first few days.
Usually the ewe will come around.
If the ewe is aggressive with the lambs (hurts them) I will keep them in a separate pen next to hers.
If this doesn't work then we have a bottle baby on our hands.

Ewe dies
We have never had this happen, but on occasion the ewe dies after she lambs. You can try to graft the lamb onto another ewe who gives birth to a single or loses her lamb/lambs. If that is not possible you are left with bottle feeding.

Ewe does not have adequate milk

This is the situation we are in this year. We had a hard winter and have a few older ladies that can't provide enough milk for their lambs. We decided to keep the lambs with the ewes and supplement bottles.
I like to keep the lambs with their mothers if we can. They are more socialized that way and act like sheep.  When we are their "sole mothers" they do not behave like sheep. Life is much easier for them when they are raised with the flock.

Too many lambs for ewe to take care of 
We have only had triplets a couple of times in all the years we have raised sheep.
But some breeds are known for having triplets/quads, and sometimes the ewe cannot take care of them all. You have to make a choice and bottle feed one of the lambs OR supplement them all.

What to feed
Lambs do well on goats milk. When we have an adequate amount of milk on hand that is what we use.
This year we do not have enough to go around so we are using Lamb Milk Replacer. It is expensive and not my first choice.
I have also mixed goat's milk with the Lamb Milk Replacer.

I had a bag of milk replacer on hand in the freezer but upon further inspection I realized it was NOT for sheep. Too much copper content. Make sure you check labels when purchasing replacer from the farm store.
They are not all created equally. Different species of livestock have different needs.

Thankfully, the bummer lambs we have this year took to the bottles right away. I was surprised since they were actively nursing. Bottle feeding doesn't always go smoothly. Some lambs are quite stubborn and take quite a bit of coaxing to accept the bottle.
We follow the feeding guidelines given on the bag of milk replacer.
We just went to three a day feedings from four! We will eventually get down to 2.
It is time consuming having to feed the lambs. It is never the ideal thing , even if they are CUTE!

Funny side note: Today we seen two of the  bottle lambs  running along side the fence. I couldn't figure out what they were doing. Then I seen what had their attention, a jogger and a young child, who was riding a bike. The lambs were chasing after them baaaing away. People! And people have bottles...
They stopped to watch the lambs, I think they must have felt pretty special having such a fan club.

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  1. Sandra,
    I have a twin I am supplementing. There is something humbling about being greeted by a hungry animal(s) that makes me smile.

    May your bottle babies be grateful for all you do and you don't smell like milk replacer all day.

    Happy Easter.

    1. Robyn, they are sweeties. Now I am going to wonder if I smell like milk replacer, lol :)

  2. Sandra, I loved the mental picture of the lambs chasing the jogger and the child on a bicycle. How funny!
    Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

    1. It was so cute, I wish I could have video taped it :)

  3. Oh Sandra this is much the same as bottled calves, so far I do not have any but we are only half way done. It is funny our calves will do well on goats milk in a pinch too. Happy Easter enjoy the cuteness I know it is work but I rather enjoy the closeness of bottle feeding. Hug B

    1. You can get very attached to bottle babies, they are so sweet!

  4. I'm a "city" girl (well, more of a suburbs girl) and don't know a flip about sheep but this post really caught my interest. I'm excited to read more of your posts and imagine myself as a homesteading shepherdess, too.

  5. Love them chasing the "peoples" :-). Good post!

  6. It's a lot of work to take care of bottle wishes with the little ones! I would love to be chased by lambs :)

    1. Thankfully we sold all of the babies, but two, I get attached!

  7. What a sweet post you wrote!!! The bottle lamb is so cute!!! Keep doing such a great job with them:) Thanks for sharing.


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