If you have sheep for any length of time, you will have one or two bottle lambs, or more.. I know of at least one person that has a deal for one of our local farm’s bottle lambs, she takes them all and hand raises them, as she has show dairy goats and so she raised the lambs and a few pigs on the extra milk. Its alot better then dumping it, but boy talk about taking on extra work..
I have been blessed to have a few years where I have no bottle babies and I really like those years but that brings me to what to do when you do have a rejected by mom lamb.
Now sheep are sweet, gentle animals, and I adore sharing my space with them, they earn their keep in many ways, and regardless of what the old saying are, my sheep all have their own temperments and many of them are down right friends but no matter how nice the sheep or how good a mother she normally is, there are a few things that can go wrong in lambing that will end up with you having a rejected lamb.
The two most common is a hard labour means a weak lamb, which can turn into a chilled lamb which means you need to bring it to the house and warm it up and get it going and then mom is done, it does not smell right and that is not my child.. there are ways around this, do most of your work in the barn as much as possable, putting birthing fluids on mom’s nose and lips and or catching the babies pee and doing the same..
Most of the time, I can get a lamb back on mom when this happens, and after a few days of tethering momma up and letting baby nurse four to six times a day, with her having enough head room to smell bottom but not enough to butt the baby away, and things settle down and the baby goes back out full time..
The second reason is not as easy, the mom has twins or triple birth, and she has “lost” one of the babies, this can happen if a little one wanders off after birth and get lost or mom had two so quickly back to back that she only cleans and bond’s with one baby and rejects the second or third baby.. in which case, you most likely have a bottle baby.
Ideally, milk the mother and feed the lamb mom’s milk, this sounds great and works if you only have a single lamb.. but if she is already feeding one or two others regular, you are not going to get alot of milk out of her for the third.
So then everyone says, get lamb milk replacer, and if you can do this.. way to go.. that’s awesome.. but if you are like me.. and live in a area where you know more about your sheeps needs then the feed store or the local vet does, you are not likely to find sheep milk replacer, the best you are going to find is calf.. and they will try and tell you that it will work..
And it will to a point, it will give you a weaker, smaller lamb and you will think.. well its a bottle baby, it got a rough start in life, that is why the mom didnt want it.
However the odds are good that its not the lambs faults at all, its the milk replacers fault, a lamb will not do well on Calf Milk Replacer, its needs will not be meet.. So if Calf is all you can get.. then what??
Here is the best recipe I have come up with to date for bottle lambs.
- Whole milk-Either fluid or Powdered Calf Replacer
- Canned Milk
- Whipping Cream
- Full Fat Greek yogurt
- Powdered Buttermilk
No, this is not cheaper then being able to buy the sheep milk replacer, and its not a cheap way to raise that little lamb, I know this but I still want that little baa’ing bugger to thrive..
I like to make mine fresh each time (the amount made changes but basic amounts stay the same as the lamb ages)
but for a basic mix to make six ounces of milk
- 4 oz hot water
- 1 tbsp of Calf Milk Replacer
- 1/2 tsp of buttermilk Powder
- 1 tsp of greek whole yogurt
- 1 tsp of canned milk
- 1 tsp of whipping cream (35%)
I add the powders and the 4 oz of hot water and shake till smooth, then add the rest and shake again, into the nursing bottle with a pinch of Baking Soda and serve the lamb..
I know that it seems like a bit of work but it really only takes a min to make, and the lambs love it and thrive on it.. remember to have some fresh good quality hay to nibble on by day 3 in their pen and to start offering creep feed in a little bowl, you will be surprised at how quickly they will start on their other feeds, sure its tiny amounts, but it all helps.