Orphan Lambs

Sheep’s milk is higher in protein and fat than other species’ milk. Producers need to do their homework to find a very high quality lamb milk replacer. (Photo courtesy of Barry Whitworth)

By Barry Whitworth, DVM

Sheep producers’ profits depend on many things, but the more lambs that can be marketed, the better the opportunity to make a profit. To increase the number of lambs produced, prolific breeds such as Finnsheep and Romanov are being incorporated into some sheep breeding programs.

One of the outcomes of this breeding program is too many lambs for some ewes to support. This leads to orphan lambs that will have to be bottle fed. Even without using prolific breeds, unfortunate circumstance such as a ewe’s death, mastitis and abandonment result in lambs without mothers. Whatever the cause, producers may have to become the mothers to these lambs.

In ewes that have large numbers of offspring, a decision has to be made as to which lambs need to be removed. In the past, experts recommended removing the stronger lambs and leaving the weaker with the ewe. More recent information suggest that the stronger do better on the ewe and the weaker will gain more weight if artificially reared.

If at all possible, producers should try to foster the lamb on to another ewe. Several “tricks” may be used to fool the ewe to accept the baby. Practices such as rubbing the fetal membranes or fetal fluids on the orphan lamb might fool the ewe.

To read more pick up a copy of the May 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.