Shepherd's Corner- Journals and Articles

Bottle Feeding Newborn Lambs


 Colostrum is the most important substance for lambs in the first few hours of life. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and the lamb must consume the fluid within the first 18 hours after birth. If it can’t be consumed naturally, it can be obtained by milking the ewe, by milking another ewe who has also just given birth, or by purchase. If you have several ewes getting ready to deliver, you might even want to purchase Colostrum ahead of time and store it. Colostrum may be purchased from a livestock feed store and is easily mixed as a powder. In an emergency, powdered calf colostrum (mixed with water) is acceptable. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the lamb’s mouth with a syringe. Use caution and take it slow so as not to risk it entering their lungs.

You may discover you are going to bottle feed the lamb and need to purchase proper lamb milk replacer. This is a powder and it can be purchased at a livestock feed store. Do not use calf milk. If lamb milk is unavailable look elsewhere, or get goat’s milk replacer as an emergency. You can also buy bottles and nipples from your livestock feed store. If you don’t have a bottle and nipple on hand, use a syringe or even a turkey baster at first. If you need emergency formula, as the case where it is late and stores are closed, you can use canned evaporated milk, adding a wee bit of molasses will give the lamb extra energy. Bottle feeding is tricky at first because the lamb will not understand the milk is coming from you. It is their nature to look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the lamb and hold it in one arm. Then use your hand to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When I use the plastic soda bottles as bottles, this enables me to gently squeeze some milk into the lamb if it is too week or confused to suck. After a few days the lamb will start to understand what is going on and will be able to drink normally from the bottle while standing.

In a day, bottle lambs need about 5 oz. of milk per pound of weight. You can figure this out and then break the feedings down to multiple times per day. In the first 24 hours you will want to feed around the clock, usually every 2 hours in the day, every 3 at night. Then to make your life easier, the lamb will be okay overnight if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible. With the other feedings 3-4 hours apart throughout the day for the first week. The water used to make the formula should be warm, you can test it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.

As your lamb gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week your lamb can be fed every 5-6 hours. You can reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as you reduce the number of feedings you need to increase the feed. Your lamb should also have hay (or grass) after a few days of age. They start to eat by watching their mother. You can teach your lamb to eat by picking grass or hay with your hand, or by having it with other lambs who are eating. Lambs can also have lamb ration feed, a crumbly product you can buy at a feed store. They won’t understand that it is food so you may have to put some into their mouth. Of course, when introducing any new food it is best done slowly so you do not overwhelm their tummies. At one week of age your lambs should also have access to fresh water, although they probably won’t drink much.  Take care that they cannot fall into the water. If your bottle baby was kept in the house it is important to get it out with the other sheep as soon as possible. Even if you have to keep it in a pen with some of the more gentle ewes and their lambs. Sheep need to bond with other sheep, and if they are not accepted into the flock at a young age, it will be very hard for them later.

Washing a Fleece in the Grease


Washing Instructions

  1. Fill a  plastic tub or old cooler about half full with warm water and about 1/8  cup of Dawn dish detergent. Outside on a warm summer day is best. 
  2. Divide  the fleece into manageable pieces.
  3. Shake  the dry fleece to expel alfalfa debris.
  4. Sink a  section into the warm water, briefly soak and rinse using a hose.
  5. Do not  pull and agitate the fibers. Let the water flow through.
  6. Squeeze  out excess water.
  7. Lay  the fleece on a screen in the sun to dry naturally.
  8. Turn the wool over when it is dry on top. 
  9. After several hours turn again until all wool is dry.
  10. Pick the wool with your fingers in a shredding motion to release all debris.
  11. Store  in a  plastic bag. I usually use a clear bag and label the bag with the name of the sheep and date.
  12. You  are now ready to dye the fiber if desired or begin carding.