Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to raise orphaned or bottle lambs/goats

Photo: A few of last year's orphan lambs under a heat lamp. We like using bucket holders for our buckets. They are sturdier and a little more reliable than a piece of baling twine. We also hang a heat lamp to stimulate the lamb's interest in the milk.  

Premier's preferred feeding program:
  • To start, use pritchard teats with warm milk replacer, colostrum or Kolostral.
  • After one day (or less), switch to latex (red or natural) nipples in bucket teat units. As soon as lambs learn to nurse readily, switch to cold milk. Offer it ad lib.
  • Day 5, offer grain (a commercial lamb starter or soybean meal with cracked corn) in a feeder. Place a light (a heat lamp and 175 watt bulb in winter) over the grain encourages lambs' attention and intake.
  • After 2 weeks, switch from latex to rubber teats. Some older lambs have sharp teeth that can damage latex teats.
  • By the 5th week their consumption per day will surprise you. So will the milk cost! So begin diluting the milk with more water.
  • Weak 6 and after, wean by offering only water and dry feed.

What is the right height for a bucket teat? It should not be higher above the bedding than a mother's own teat (typically low). When a young lamb or kid stretches out their neck to nurse, the esophagus forms a channel to the 4th stomach. If it is not stretched, the milk falls into the first stomach (rumen) instead. This stomach was intended for processing grass or hay, thus it does not digest milk the same.

Milk temperature—warm vs cold?
Mother's milk is warm, but it's produced constantly in only small amounts.
On the other hand, orphan buckets "produce" milk sporadically in large amounts.
So use warm milk for newborns only. Warm milk offered ad lib to older orphans causes gorging. Offering cold milk will cause lambs to self regulate their intake.
To keep milk in the bucket cold, freeze water in plastic bottles to use as "ice cubes."

If the ages of the lambs are staggered:
Different aged lambs will require multiple buckets and separate pens. When a younger lamb feeds, the older lamb, whether they are hungry or not, will push away the younger lamb and begin feeding. Thus the need to separate lambs.