The REAL truth about bottle lambs - Wait 'till you see number 3!

Meet our current house lambs

Mica

Mica is here due to the ewe not having enough milk. Mica was a twin born to a very old ewe who I was quite sure wasn’t pregnant. Oh well, I was wrong. She was. Old Little Brown (the Shetland ewe) had twins that were TINY. I mean miniscule, even for a Shetland. Both lambs were up and going as mum is an excellent mother. She got them going and just ran out of milk. Unfortunately, the smallest one died over night under the heat lamb. She was SO tiny we we’re surprised, and although she was up and going, she wasn’t doing great. Not wanting to lose the remaining lamb due to lack of milk, we brought her up to the house, and named her Mica.

 

Mica is doing great. She is a lively, active little lamb that eat well and seeks us out. Her transition was smooth and easy.

 

 

Stumpy

Stumpy is here due to injury. Stumpy is one of the triplets. From the get-go, being a triplet, he was a candidate for, at the very least supplementation all the way to being a bottle lamb. He didn’t get a good beginning to life. Being the third triplet, he didn’t get a lot of attention from Mum as she was preoccupied with the first two. At some point after being ignored, he ended up on the wrong side of the fence with Pinky our young livestock dog. Mum accepted him back but wasn’t overly enthusiastic about him. She tolerated him.

He got in again with Pinky and was injured. He is now up at the house. He’s resting and recuperating. Our fingers are crossed for him, I think he’ll pull through. His mum isn’t missing him.

 

But they're SO cute!!

Each year we do our best to avoid having bottle lambs. Despite all the care, attention, and breeding to achieve a bottle lamb-free home for lambing season, more often than not, we do end up with one. If we’re really unlucky, we get two. A universal punishment means three or more bottle lambs to contend with. Bottle lambs are an awful, awful thing to content with.

I can hear your protests now. BUT JENNIFER, they are sooooo cute. OMG, I just want to cuddle them!!! HOW can you be So mean and call them awful. You’re awful.

Aaaand you wouldn’t be wrong. OMG, are they ever adorable! So adorable they still make it into the house and are cuddled, fawned, and even danced with. But, there is a DARK side to bottle lambs. Let me explain.

The reasons for bottle lambs are numerous. Sometimes a lamb can end up indoors due to its mother not having enough milk. It may be the smallest triplet or come from an old ewe. Either way, there just isn’t enough milk to go around, but the lamb keeps trying.

Another reason is the ewe rejects the lamb. Why the ewe does this can be a mystery. Maybe something is wrong with the lamb, the lamb was stolen by another ewe and no the birth ewe thinks it doesn’t smell like her lamb, maybe the ewe was distracted or moved during birthing and now doesn’t recognize the lamb. A ewe can be forced to nurse a lamb, but even this doesn’t work all the time. There is far more going on when a ewe lambs than immediately meets the eye. For whatever reason, Mum refuses to nurse the lamb, leaving it to die – which is what we are trying to avoid.

Lambs, being lambs, aren’t that bright. Somehow, they can get into the strangest places and situations that one would have never imagined. Lamb proofing a barn can be quite complex. Something as simple as a tiny loop on the end of a rope can be a killing machine for a lamb. Even when I think I have found ALL the possible dangers in the barn, low and behold, ONE lamb finds a new danger. It only takes one right?

No matter the reason, if a lamb isn’t doing well, and there is the slightest chance of it thriving (some begin life not thriving), everything is done to keep it going, even if that means coming into the house.

 
Lamb containment system

 

Once a lamb is in the house, then the games begin. Instead of the Hunger Games it should be the Lambie Games. Once the lambs are in they need to be contained. Depending on why they came in this can be as simple as a box, or as complex as a cage system that consists of whatever is lying around because the actual lamb barriers are buried somewhere underneath the snow.

 

Milk being heated for lambies

 

Once the containment unit is complete, any needed medications are given, and little lambie is stable, the lambs MUST to be fed. Being fed ewe’s milk is ideal, but it ranges from commercially prepared lamb milk or colostrum replacer to a concoction of eggs, milk, and cream. It varies and lots of recipes are out there.  We use our milk from our own ewes or commercial milk replacer, the former is preferable. Lambs need regular feeding, they are babies after all. Now, there is a general schedule to feeding lambs. This is what 4H out of Iowa advises:

Feeding Schedule (adjust according to lamb size)

  • 1-2 days 2-3 ounces, 6 times a day.
  • 3-4 days 3-5 ounces, 6 times per day.
  • 5-14 days 4-6 ounces, 4 times per day.
  • Start offering lamb starter. 15-21 days 6-8 ounces, 4 times per day.
  • 22-35 days 16 ounces, 3 times per day.
 
Being fed together. Soon a second bottle will be introduced.

 

There are variations, but in general feeding is often and numerous. Depending on the size and type of sheep your feeding that changes amounts and timing. Anyway, the point is, it’s a lot of work around the clock. They’re babies and need constant care. The upside when there are very young, a week or less, eating and sleeping are primary lamb activities.

 

SO MUCH LAMB PEE

Once lambs are stable and full of milky goodness they will pee and poop. Pee and poop they do! I have NEVER seen SUCH a small create produce SO MUCH URINE! A lamb can produce more pee than puppies, kittens, and I believe elephants. It’s astounding. Within the first couple of days lambs are generally up and moving around. A little box or pen just isn’t going to contain them. They want and need to get up ad move around. This means letting them explore their surroundings. If we don’t mind them peeing everywhere they want to , no more work. If we’d really like to avoid tracking lamb urine throughout the house, we need to prevent it from getting to their body onto the floor. This means DIAPERS. Yes, lamb diapers. Male lambs are a bit easier as they can be wrapped with a male dog wrap. Female lambs require a lot more patience and dexterity to get them into the doggy diaper with he tail hole and two side fasteners.  The older they get the harder it is to get a wriggling lamb into that tail hole.

 So there you have it. Lots of troubles with bottle lambs. I'll end off with some of the BEST things about bottle lambs. 

  1. THEY ARE CUTE!!!!!
  2. Their hooves make adorable clippity clopping sounds on the floor
  3. Gambolling lambs - nuf said
  4. THEY ARE CUTE!!!!!
  5. The funny noises they make while nursing
  6. The adorable little baas they make when looking for you
  7. Melting when they run after you, jump, and dance
  8. Feeding them at lamb cuddles!

 

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