How to Care for a Lamb
When a lamb is born, the best way to make sure it grows into a productive and healthy adult sheep is to provide proper feeding and nutrition, housing and health care. If you are unsure what to do, contact your veterinarian for advice, and visit your local Tractor Supply Co. store to shop for all the livestock care supplies you need.
What to Do Immediately after a Lamb is Born
Here are a few things you should do immediately following the birth of a new lamb on your farm:
- Trim the lamb's navel cord to about 3 - 4 inches and dip the navel cord in an iodine solution to prevent infection.
- Tie the navel cord with a surgical suture so the navel cord eventually dries out and falls off naturally.
- Feed antibody-rich colostrum as soon as possible, or within the first 2 hours of life. If the lamb will not consume colostrum within the first 18 hours, contact your veterinarian. You may need to feed the lamb via feeding tube, which may need to be done by an experienced livestock owner. If no maternal colostrum is available from an ewe, or mother sheep, feed the lamb colostrum supplement, available at Tractor Supply Co.
How to House a New Lamb
It is important to keep your new baby lamb separated from adult livestock until it is old enough to establish a healthy immune system and become vaccinated from common parasites and infection. Read more about how to create a bio-security plan for you farm here.
Provide a clean, warm and well-bedded shelter for the lamb or group of lambs of similar ages.
How to Bottle Feed a Nursing Lamb
A lamb's primary source of nutrition is milk, and hand-raised lambs must be fed milk from a bottle. Depending on the size of your sheep herd, it may save time to feed older lambs using a pail or automated livestock feeder.
Here are some tips for bottle feeding lambs:
- Feed at intervals that mimic natural feeding behavior.
- Feed lambs at least 4 times per day for the first 2 weeks of life, then 3 - 4 times per day until the lamb is 30 days old.
- If the lamb develops scours, a common condition in livestock that causes diarrhea, mix in electrolyte supplements with water and feed separately from milk feed. This will help prevent dehydration in the lamb, a dangerous condition for baby livestock.
How to Wean a Lamb
Sheep are ruminants, or animals that chew partially digested food multiple times throughout the digestion process. Help your lamb make the transition from liquid to solid by weaning. To wean a lamb from milk re-placer and onto solid feed, follow these steps:
- Once the lamb is 1 week old, offer a high-quality creep feed with at least 16 - 18% crude protein.
- Do not feed the lamb alfalfa hay just yet, because it increases the chance of bloat, a common condition in livestock that causes excess gas and discomfort.
- Provide clean, fresh water free choice at all times.
- Once the lamb is about 30 days old and has successfully been fed creep feed, milk replacer and a steady supply of clean water, introduce dry lamb feed.
- It is recommended to wean lambs abruptly instead of gradually.