Caring for your pet lamb

Nutrition:

Adequate nutrition is the single most important factor for a newborn lamb. For the first 24 hours, it is essential that your lamb receives enough colostrum. A good feeding regimen is 150 mLs of colostrum over 6 feeds in 24 hours. If a newborn lamb doesn’t drink, then it is okay to tube feed them colostrum for the first 2 feeds. By the 3rd feed, the lamb SHOULD be suckling on its own. Try scratching the lambs on their backs, just above their tails, as this is what their mothers would normally do!

Colostrum can be fed for as long as you want – the longer the better – though it is safe to switch to milk replacer or cows’ milk after 24 hours of feeding colostrum. Alternatively, goat’s milk can be tried. From 24 hours of age to 4 days of age, lambs should get 150 mLs of milk or colostrum over 6 feeds. From 4 days of age to 21 days of age, lambs should get 250 mLs over 4 feeds, daily. From 21 days of age to weaning, it is recommended that lambs get fed 500 mLs of milk twice a day.

SWVS sells freeze-dried ewe colostrum and milk replacer, so please ask us if you need some!

Note: If a lamb is being raised by hand, care must be taken to avoid abomasal bloating. This can occur when they are fed too much at a time, or when there is an overgrowth of contaminant bacteria in the stomach which produce excessive gas. A good way of preventing abomasal bloat in lambs is to yoghurtize the milk first, which also makes the milk last longer. See the recipe below.

Environment:

Orphan/pet lambs need to be kept in a warm, dry, and clean environment. Wooly lamb covers can be bought from our clinic stores. These should only be used for the first 48 hours of life, as the lambs will quickly outgrow their cover! A heat lamp is an ideal source of warmth for lambs as they allow lambs to regulate their own temperature by getting as close or as far away from the heat as they need.

From day 2 onward, lambs may be given access to a small, contained area to run around in between feeds, if it is nice weather. This area should contain some dirt, some grass, some shade, and a water source. After 1 week, lambs may be allowed to run in bigger paddocks, but still need to be able to retreat to shelter. Pet/orphan lambs may be safely weaned at around the age of 6 weeks. Lambs that are still on mum should be weaned as late as possible.

Things to be Aware of:

Meconium – it is NORMAL for your lamb to produce a dark, sticky stool in the first few hours of life. This is called meconium. After this, lambs will have bright orange/yellow stools and this is also normal for the next 10 days or so, until they start producing formed droppings.

Cleft palate – some animals are born with a cleft palate, which is seen as an abnormal gap at the roof of the mouth. These lambs may be distinguished by milk coming out of their noses initially. This may cause them to inhale milk into their lungs and can be very serious.

Atresia ani – some lambs are born without an exit for their excretions to come out. It is important that you check to make sure your lamb is passing stool. Lambs without a formed anus may present bloated and blown up as there is nowhere for the stool to go.

Umbilical infections – it is important to spray your newborn lamb’s navel with 2.5% iodine tincture. This should be done in the paddock when you pick them up, and again once you have moved them in to a warm, clean, and dry environment. If the umbilicus doesn’t dry out and forms any swelling at its base, a veterinarian should be consulted as it might have an umbilical infection.

Entropian – some lambs are born with a condition where the eyelids become inverted and causes rubbing on the eyeball by the eyelashes. If left untreated, it may leave to blindness. Affected lambs may present with very red eyes (conjunctiva), a lot of discharge from their eyes, and a cloudiness to their eyes. Sometimes it is enough to evert the eyelids manually, though more severe cases may need surgical intervention.

Other – of course there are lots of other things to look out for in young lambs, such as joint infections, poor conformation of limbs/feet etc

Please make an appointment with one of our vets if you have any concerns!

Drenching and Vaccination:

If you would like some information on drenching and vaccinating your pet lamb, then please book in a consultation with one of our large animal vets.

Yoghurtizing Milk:

Mix 3L warm water + 1kg lamb milk replacer (or use 3-4L of cows milk in place of water and replacer) + 200mL acidophilus yogurt. Set in a warm place for 8-12 hours. Top up to 8 L with cold water (or cows milk if not using milk replacer) before feeding. A good yoghurt to use is a probiotic yoghurt such as biofarm acidophilus yoghurt. This is good because it contains 3 different yoghurt cultures; acidophilus, bifidus, and casei. This is sold in most supermarkets.