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It's a bummer

 
R Ranson
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Bummer is a technical term for orphan lamb.

Let's talk about bottle feeding lambs. What are the important things we need to know?
What type of milk?
How to know if the lamb is getting enough, or too much?
What equipment?
How often to feed?

I'll write what I know later, as this is not my first bummer.

In the meantime, I would like to here what you know. Let's make this thread a go to resource for bottle feeding bummers.

Technically, my little fella isn't an orphan yet, but momma sheep isn't doing so great. She's drying up, and is having trouble recovering from her ordeal. Little lamb isn't growing. It's time to start supplementing his milk.

 
Mike Turner
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You can get lamb milk replacer at farm supply stores as well as nipples that will screw onto the top of a small glass or plastic soft drink bottle. The lamb won't like the milk replacer, so it works best to start it off with goat milk (I normally use the condensed canned goat milk from the grocery store). After the lamb gets used to the goat milk, you can gradually shift it to milk replacer if you like since it is much cheaper than goat milk. You will need to heat the milk to 104 degrees F before feeding it to the lamb. The lamb will probably fight you and spit the nipple out repeatedly the first time you try to feed it, but if you persevere it will eventually learn to drink the milk without protest, especially if it isn't getting any from mom. You will need to feed every 4 hours if it isn't getting any milk from mom, less often if you are merely supplementing mom's output. I'll start off feeding it about 1/4 cup at each feeding, than gradually increase it as it gets older. You can feel the lump of the lamb's stomach to see if is getting enough milk (grab another lamb after it has finished feeding from mom to see how full/large the lamb's stomach should feel after it has gotten a good meal).
 
Miranda Converse
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With our goats, we are trying to build up a bank of milk for situations like this. Still very new to goats but with our first kidding, we would milk her once a day for the first week and freeze it. It's really important for newborns to get colostrum right away, so as long as we have a couple days worth I figure that will get us through until we can find a long term solution. Thankfully I haven't had to use it (just had our second kidding yesterday and all went well...)

We froze the milk in ziplock bags so they lay flat and don't take up too much space. We also labeled them with the date and what day the milk came from, day 1 being the day she kidded. My understanding is that the colostrum is at it's full strength the first day and tapers off for about a week. So we would want day 1 colostrum for any orphaned newborns. If they were orphaned at a couple days old, we would give them the milk from day 2 and later and save day 1 for newborns. There really is no good substitute for real colostrum so I think this is important...I know this thread is for lambs but I can't imagine that colostrum isn't as important for them but I could be wrong...

 
R Ranson
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How do you thaw the frozen goat milk? I have loads of raw goats milk in the freezer, but when I thaw it, it's separated into curds and whey - the sheep refuses to drink it.
 
Su Ba
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Just about every year I get in bummer lambs that other people don't wish to raise. It cost more to raise a bummer than what's it worth to sell when you're done. At least here it is. I've been using Land O Lakes lamb milk replacer successfully. I figure in two buckets to raise up a lamb, and if it wants to nurse more after that I switch to store bought cow's milk well watered down. Over a couple of weeks I gradually eliminate the milk so that they are only getting water. By that time they're eating well on pasture and the bottle is simply a reinforcement to keep them friendly. My lambs will keep at that bottle as long as I'm offering it. My 8 year old ram still begs for a bottle when he sees me feeding a bummer. It hilarious.

I use Land O Lakes simply because it's what I can get here consistently. Other brands seem to come and go on the store shelf.
 
Miranda Converse
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R Ranson wrote:How do you thaw the frozen goat milk? I have loads of raw goats milk in the freezer, but when I thaw it, it's separated into curds and whey - the sheep refuses to drink it.
I haven't needed to thaw any but from what I gather on other forums is you can put it in a blender or just mix it well somehow. If the sheep still won't take it, maybe it's the taste. You could try a blend of sheep(or whatever they are taking)/goats milk, gradually adding more goat milk so they get used to it...
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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My experience with dogie (hey I'm a Texan) lambs has been many moons ago so I'm sure the milk replacers are much improved, but I would still read up on the latest scour treatment. I'm guessing it's still very easy for a lamb to come down with them.
 
kadence blevins
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R Ranson wrote:How do you thaw the frozen goat milk? I have loads of raw goats milk in the freezer, but when I thaw it, it's separated into curds and whey - the sheep refuses to drink it.


if its separating into curds and whey you got bigger problems than freezing!

really though, when you freeze raw milk the cream starts separating to the top. this will freeze sooner and since it is open to the air inside the jug it can get a weird freezer burn thing happen. now when you thaw that milk the weird freezer burn cream doesn't mix with the rest of the milk.

there isn't anything wrong with it. just mix the milk. I've drank, my whole family drank it, bottle babies drank it,...

If it bothers you I would wonder if you could run the milk back through the strainer? that would probably work. if you have a strip cup just pop the metal strainer top off and run it through that into another jug/pitcher etc.
 
Andy Moffatt
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Starting them on purchased goats milk sounds expensive, in my experience they'll drink once they're hungry enough!
If they're not too excited about the powdered stuff a small amount of sugar in the milk can help
 
Sherry Johnson
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Just have a quick moment... been raising goats and sheep for over 40 years. Highly recommend avoiding any milk replacer if at all possible, it leads to digestive difficulties and failure to thrive. Goat's milk makes an excellent substitute for most species, have raised children, kids, lambs, calves, and a kitten (who is now a healthy 17 yo cat) on it. I always try to put as much in the freezer as possible in the fall so as not to be caught at kidding/lambing time without a supply. I froze in quart ziplocs this year for storage ease, I have found it more easily defrosted in this packaging. If your milk is frozen fresh and has not been in the freezer more than a year it should do well. If it does have some separation it can be whirled in the blender to reconstitute. Always give it the "sniff test" before feeding to be sure it hasn't soured. If you can find a local breeder to purchase milk from I think it is a good investment. When they are newborns feed them small amounts (1-2 ounces) frequently, at least 4-6 times daily. Too much at one time can cause scours or even enterotoxemia. Work them up gradually, you can find a chart of quantities to feed for specific ages on the internet I am certain. Always try to get as many feedings of colostrum as possible from the dam or another lactating female on your farm within the first 12 hours as absorption of the antibodies from the gut will begin to drop off after that. Got to get out to chores, good luck with those babies!
 
leah cardwell
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i have raised lots of orphans, lambs, kids, calves, kittens, pigs, puppies, pigeons , usually i keep a milk cow around, and a milk goat, right now i have a sheep that is milking rather well. It is good practice to keep clostrum in the freezer, grab it and freeze it at every opportunity. The store bought stuff isnt any where near as good as the real deal but it will get you by in a pinch until you get your hands on the real stuff.If you have no critters milking and no milk in the freezer then There is almost always some one who has some thing haveing babies at the same time that you are, ask around, generally people will let you have clostrum and or milk as long as you will do the milking. If all else fails use the tried and true baby critter formula canned evaporated milk and corn syrup, add water to dilute to which ever species you are feeding and corn syrup the same. corn syrup has a laxative effect so be gentle with it. kittens and piggies and human babies need more syrup than goats and calves. some animals have a very high sugar content in their milk as well as a higher fat content so do your research and dilute accordingly. The formula has saved many little lives but it does not replace clostrum, i always prefer the real deal and do my best to locate the closest milk that i can find.
 
R Ranson
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My preference is also for goats milk when bottle raising sheep and goats. Milk replacer works okay I guess, but from my personal observations, milk replacer doesn't produce an animal that is as hardy and healthy throughout it's life. I have a few sources of high quality raw goats milk. My one source, my goat guru, has very high fat content. She raises Saanens, but there is always an inch or three of fat settled on top per half gallon. For those of you new to goats, it's an incredible amount of fat for the breed. She does this through diet and 40 years of breeding. I love her milk best because the animals raised with her milk are always the healthiest of our bottle fed bummers.

I've seen some people feed their lambs crazy stuff. One person decided that baby formula - as in HUMAN baby formula - was the ideal thing for lambs because her children grew up just fine on the stuff. Poor little lamb was 2 months old when we got him, but not much bigger than a month old lamb. Once we got him on the goats milk, he grew and grew. He probably didn't have any colostrum (first milk - full of antibodies and other good stuff), so he is susceptible to things the other sheep aren't. I call this kind of sheep a Canary sheep - as in it's the first one to get sick if there is something wrong in the flock. It's very handy to have a canary sheep.

One thing to think about (and this is true for all livestock, regardless of their age) is that suddenly changing their feed can lead to major complications.

Over feeding is another big problem... but it's hard to discover exactly how much to feed the lamb. My google-fu is terrible. I think going by weight might be better than going by age, as my breed is much smaller than a commercial sheep.

 
leah cardwell
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you are absolutely correct about not over feeding babies. I had a neighbor bring me a little lamb that they had been feeding milk replacer, it had a terribly distended stomach. A long story short is that they fed the little guy to death. Multiple feedings of small and moderate amounts are best for babies, just like their own mother would do.
 
Mike Turner
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Its very easy to determine how much to feed them by feeling the lump of milk in their stomach. You can feel the stomach milk lump in another lamb of similar age after it has finished feeding from mom to determine how large the lump should feel and feed your bummer until its stomach lump is about the same size. They'll readily try to feed well beyond that point if you let them just like the lambs feeding from mom try to do so until she interrupts their suckling by walking off since her instincts are telling her how much milk at a feeding is right for her lambs..
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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This thread has suddenly and unexpectedly become relevant to me. We've been talking with some friends about picking up some Black Welsh lambs this spring. The plan was for them to come along with their mom some time in April. BUT one of their ewes just had triplets today, and only has one functional teat, which means... bottle baby. They've had all three alternating on mom's one teat for the day, but if we agree to this we'd be getting a day-old ewe lamb to bottle feed tomorrow. I've been frantically researching to figure out if this is a thing we want to do or not, and I have a few questions for anyone who feels like answering:

I see a lot of mixed opinions on the "best" milk replacer, even in this thread. I was leaning towards raw goat milk, or enriched raw cow milk, but then I read that both goat and cow milk have too much lactose for sheep which can contribute to scours. My all-natural heart has a strong bias towards feeding some kind of real milk, but would we really be better off to go with a store bought replacer? I saw someone swearing by bargain basement grocery store cow milk, cream, and an egg as a lamb replacer that works for them. We at least have access to fresh raw cow milk, which we could enrich by skimming the cream off another jug to add to it. Good idea? Bad idea?

Sorry if this is a totally dumb question, but what do you do with your lamb between feedings? Normally it would be playing close to mom and/or cuddling. If we just have a single lamb here, we can't leave it outside alone, right? So maybe it gets to play outside a bit when we're out doing chores, but then comes in when we're in. Do we just let it run around the house? Keep it in a dog crate? My house is not lamb proofed. ;P

I'm being told that we're looking at a commitment of something like a week of feedings every 3-4 hours, tapering to 2ish more weeks of every 6 hours or so, towards the end of which a bag of cold milk can be hung outside for the lamb to help herself to while browsing. Does this sound about right?

With tiny kittens, you have to stimulate them to poop after eating, like their mama cat would. Do you have to do anything like this for lambs? No one really says anything about poop in the articles I've read.

Sorry if this is a little scattered - I'm feeling a little scattered trying to learn enough to make a decision quickly. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!
 
R Ranson
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Oh, a little baby bottle fed lamb. Exciting.

I advocate for good quality goats milk. It's the closest mammal milk to sheep that most people have access to. I haven't had any scours yet, nor have I met a farmer who bottle fed a lamb goats milk have any trouble. I think it's more technique of feeding than the milk itself. But then again, we've only done with raw goats milk... so perhaps the pasteurization and homogenization does something to the milk that the lamb has trouble digesting.

Other people have other opinions. A lot of it will depend on what you have access to.

I haven't raised a bottle bummer this early in the year, so it's a bit too cold here for a lamb to be outside 24 hours without a warm body (like mummy) to keep it warm. I can't really say what you 'should' do, but I'll tell you what's worked for me in the past.

We set up a run outside the front door. A variation on the run we use for mummy and baby ducks. Inside the run, there is a dog crate (small at first, bigger when the lamb grows) with hay in it for bedding (and a feed bag under the hay for easy cleaning). During the day, the lamb is in the run, or beside us while we work in the garden, and do other chores. During the night, we bring the crate inside - but BEFORE we turn the heat on / start the fire for the evening. Too sudden a change in temperature can be really hard on any animal, little lambs especially. If I'm spinning, on the computer, or watching a film, I keep the lamb on my lap. Otherwise it's in the crate near us.

Sheep are very social and they need a flock to belong to.

I halter train the lamb as soon as it's big enough to wear a halter, so that it can come with me in the car and swindle cute people out of free animal food like brewery grain and leftovers from the grocery store. Lamb doesn't come in the shop with me, but being outside the shop while another member of the family goes in shopping, usually gets people's attention.

The halter helps when the sheep is too big for the run, we can tether it near something that needs munching on.

You'll probably get lots of (conflicting) advice, and not all of it will work for you. Use the resources you already have and follow the method that matches your values.


One other thing to think about is vaccination.
Do you want to vaccinate? Most farmers do and most vets recommend it. Since the lamb is not on yummy mummy it isn't getting the antibodies from her, so it's something to consider.
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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We decided to go for it!



Our friends lent us a z pen so she's got a little place in the house, and the feed store lady unexpectedly hooked us up with a nearby goat keeper who sells their milk for livestock use for only $5/gallon. She's not sure she likes this not-mom method of feeding yet, but we've gotten a few ounces of goat milk enriched with a bit of cow cream into her with a combination of bottle and plastic syringe. Hopefully she'll come around soon and get excited about the bottle.

 
Roberta Wilkinson
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Thanks for the pie, R!

Things seem to be going well. She's got the hang of the bottle now, and would pretty much nurse nonstop if we'd let her (we don't). First day she was here we were only able to estimate her weight by weighing ourselves with and without her on the analog bathroom scale. That put her at about 6 lbs. Since then, we've rigged up a better system with a luggage scale and a shopping bag. She's putting on about half a pound a day, which seems good, though I couldn't find any numbers on growth rates for Welsh lambs.

I was worried this would be a terrible slog but worth it for a free sheep, but in fact she's pretty much a delight. She flocks with us when we go on family walks, loves to play racing games, has headbutting contests with her reflection in the mirror, and loves to cuddle. We took her with us to town yesterday, and she was the hit of the 4 year old's birthday party, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Now I'm thinking forward to when the other two lambs we're getting come along with their mom in April, and transitioning her to living with a flock of actual sheep. The other lambs will be about a month older than she is. Do you think that will work out okay and they'll all play together, or without her own mom to defend her might there be some kind of sheep bullying that goes on? I'm hoping for a cultural exchange where she teaches the other lambs that we're nice cool trustworthy people, and the others teach her the ins and outs of good foraging.
 
Travis Johnson
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Sheep bullying is pretty common after only a few weeks apart, but unlike the negative term it has within the human world, in the ovine world is is natural and necessary. That is because there is a hierarchy within a flock of sheep, but it also sets the stage for the "flock leader". People think sheep blindly follow one another because they are dumb, but that is not the case at all. There is a scent gland on their front hooves that secrets smell with each step and sheep follow that. Considering a sheep has no natural defenses except to run (futile with such big bodies and tiny hooves) or group up and look inconspicuous. As a flock, they decided through ramming one another who will lead the way. With their super strong craniums, a little head butting sets the stage for the strongest and thus a leader is chosen. It is in our best interest to step aside and let sheep simply act like sheep.

BTW: Did you know that sheep have amazing facial recognition? Due to their lack of defensive measures, they must determine friend or foe quickly, and for a long time. They can remember a person's face 2 years after last seeing it. In other words those wooly rapscallions really hold one heck of a grudge!

And their memories are astonishing as well. In Australia they did studies and two years afterwards, a sheep could navigate a maze with pin point accuracy to get to grain as their reward on the other side.

I am not claiming they are the smartest livestock out there, but I swear those wooly rapscallions do nothing all day but plot against me and scheme on how to make their big escape out of the barn or pastures. And as a side note, they do surprisingly well.
 
Travis Johnson
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After a little thought, I realized not a lot was said on here regarding tube feeding. If I have a lamb that merits enough attention to require bottle feeding, for the first week or so it is almost always tube fed. I do that just so that I am assured it is getting into the right stomach, with the right amount of nutrition, and as quickly and efficiently as I can. This is especially true of a newborn that I suspect may not have gotten enough colostrum. Putting a feeding tube in ensures its getting what it needs immediately and it is surprisingly easy to do. It is also faster then bottle feeding.
 
Judy Bowman
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This a comparison table of the composition of the milk of various species that might be helpful in choosing an appropriate replacement milk for orphans.

milk composition comparision

I've raised many orphan lambs and kids but I haven't raised lambs on goat milk so can't comment. I can add, however, that if you have to use milk replacer it has been our experience that it's best to use the highest quality lamb (not cow or multi species) replacer you can find and make certain the baby gets some colostrum in the first 24 hours. Also, it's been our experience that it's not necessary or even desirable to bottle feed for months. We begin slowing decreasing quantity from a high of about a quart a day starting at 3 to 4 weeks fully weaning at 8 to 10 weeks. Providing a good quality creep from as early as a week helps with outcome. Again, this is just our experience.
 
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