Rearing Orphan Lambs
As we get close to the lambing season the challenge of managing and feeding orphan lambs needs to be considered. With selected breeding, multiple births are now a common place and the management of these additional lambs needs to be planned out. These lambs and their orphan counterparts can be reared successfully and reach target weights with good husbandry and good feeding, enabling them to return a profit. Many farmers now choose to rear these lambs themselves and the following are some guidelines.
Guidelines in hand rearing lambs
- Ensure the lambs get an adequate amount of colostrum, if the lamb is unable to suckle stomach tubing using a soft pipe and a dosing syringe can be used. A total of 15% of body weight is needed, so a 5kg lamb will need 750 ml given in 3-4 feeds within 4-5 hours of birth. If natural lamb colostrum is unavailable, substitute colostrum can be fed, ensure it is mixed correctly and fed warm.
- Weak or hypothermic lambs can be revived by the use of an intra-abdominal injection of 10 ml/kg of a 20% glucose/dextrose solution, for more information on this visit our website.
- Make sure the lambs are dry and warm, use a heat lamp in cold conditions to provide extra warmth. Plenty of clean, dry straw is essential to create a good environment and avoid drafts and cold winds at ground level.
- Feeding lambs needs to be done regularly, lamb milk replacer such as ProLamb Gold contains high levels of milk protein resulting in less digestive upsets and allowing excellent feed absorption. The protein and fat levels of 22% ensure that the young lambs are receiving ample energy and protein for growth and development.
- Lambs need a minimum of 15% of their body weight in milk so a 5 kg lamb will need approximately 800ml – 1000ml of lamb milk replacer such as ProLamb Gold with a mixing rate of 20 % e.g. 200 grams of ProLamb Gold lamb milk replacer into 800 ml of water. The milk should be mixed warm at 50⁰C and fed at 39⁰C – 40⁰C or body temperature. The initial feeds should be broken down into 4-5 feeds per day and then reduced to three feeds per day after a week. From 8 days + till weaning, lambs can be fed twice per day at levels increasing up to 750 ml per feed.
- Lambs can be weaned when consuming 250 grams of concentrate feed, at approx. 35 days. Abrupt lamb weaning is the best practice.
Hygiene is critical when rearing lambs
Hygiene when feeding lambs is critical, ensure bottles, teats and equipment are clean and sterilised regularly by washing with detergent and hot/boiling water.
Bloat in lambs
A common issue when rearing orphan lambs is bloat, typically occurring between 3-4 weeks of age, within 2 hours post feeding. It is usually as a result of rapid intake of large amounts of milk or uneven intake so it is important to ensure that teats are in good condition and avoid gorging. Lambs can be treated with liquid paraffin to combat gas production from bacteria growth.
Feeding lamb products
Here are a list of some useful products available through your local co-op or merchant as supplied by PharVet (Ireland) Ltd when feeding lambs:
More information in lamb rearing practices