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bottle feeding lambs as well as mummy?  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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Mary's two lambs aren't gaining weight.  They are lethargic and even though they (try to) nurse often, their stomachs look caved in.  If they were getting enough milk, the stomachs would look plump. 

Today, I took a bottle out with some goats milk and saw if they would be interested in it.  The first one drank the whole bottle (about 300ml), so I went to get another one, and the twin drank all the second.  They both begged for more.  But I wasn't sure if I should give them too much.  Their stomachs were nice when I left them.

I gave Mary's a bit of a milking and the milk is coming out normal-ish.  But the udders aren't as full.  We are giving her extra grain ration and she spends the days out on pasture with her flock and mealtimes and night with the lambs in the jug.  She was a great mum in years gone by but never had twins before.


My conclusion is the lambs aren't getting enough to drink.  What are my options?

Maybe I can supplement a feeding once a day and have the lambs nurse from their mum the rest of the time.

Or should I take one and bottle feed him?  Or both?  The problem with this is that it's expensive!  I'm not sure I can get raw goats milk just now, so it would be pasteurised. 
 
Deb Rebel
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Does it seem one lamb is being bullied off the nipple a lot by the other? In that case bottle feed the bullied lamb and see if the other gets enough, if not you may have to bottle both. Or try to do the supplement and see if they are getting enough, but I'd lean to taking one off her since she has been a good mom in the past with just one. Once you take a lamb off the mom you have a bottle lamb. Got anyone in the area that had their ewe lose their lamb very recently and hasn't dried up yet? Then you could try to get her to take one lamb... Good luck.
 
Travis Johnson
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If memory serves me correctly these are recently born lambs so they are in the dead zone, that is most lamb mortality comes within the first 21 days of life. For the first three days a lamb does okay because they are still on the reserves of their mother, so from the 3rd day to 21st day, I am on guard.

In my experience, when lambs starting looking lethargic, because of their nature, they are VERY lethargic. Starvation is the leading cause of lamb mortality, not just on my farm, but overall, and so now I just pull the lambs and have bottle lambs. As much as I dislike bottle lambs, I dislike dead lambs even more. Grafting lambs to a new ewe is really difficult with sheep, so I don't even bother to try. Formula is expensive granted, but it is better than dead lambs, and so if there is a question on whether a mother is producing enough or not, I just bottle feed.

The biggest issue is to do just exactly what the formula bag says. People often think that bottle feeding more is best because a lamb is hungry, but that is not the case at all. A lamb is hungry too when it is with its ewe, but she still lies down, moves away, or in other words keeps the lamb from drinking. Bottle feeding is the same way, giving the lambs small, steady doses of formula, but because we regulate and ensure the lamb is getting what it needs, it thrives.

Again I do not like spending money on formula, but I dislike dead lambs even more. I would just pull the lambs and bottle feed. It sounds to me like the ewe is getting some age on her and is not converting feed to nutrional well due to her teeth. At 43, I think I have the same problem!
 
r ranson
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The ewe isn't that old.  She's an "a" year for me, and I'm on "f" this year.  So older than I thought.  A bit under 5 years old, and if memory serves this is her third year lambing. 

I gave them another half bottle after sunset.  10 minutes later, the boy was jumping, playing, being a lamb.  The girl, she had enough energy to stand and walk around, but not happy like a lamb.

The boy lamb has weird teeth - like fangs growing from the bottom, not flat like a normal lamb.  This might be part of the problem.

The girl is doing much worse.  One of her eyes is watering and she a mucky bum after the bottle.  She isn't acting like she can see.  She moves towards the largest black or dark coloured shape and tries to nurse.  But she can't seem to see much more than 2 yards away.  She's not that pale under the eye, but I'm thinking of giving her wormer.

The thing is, they are coming up a week old.  I want to castrate and probably dock the girl's tail.  I don't normally dock tails as I like a breed that has a short tail or enough sense to lift their tail when they have to do their business.  But the girl isn't lifting her tail to poo.  Is that because she's too weak or is she just stupid?

I don't want to get the elastrator out until they are strong enough to handle the stress.  How much longer can I wait?  It's not a tool like like, but the boy has the chance to be a fibre fella if his wool is nice, but it won't happen if he's intact. 
 
r ranson
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Where do you get your formula?

I generally use raw goats milk from a local farmer, but that's CRAZY expensive.
 
Travis Johnson
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Two things could be causing the watery eye: an inward turned eyelid which is very common. You should be able to flick it out of her eye easily, and is one of the things I check for at birth. The second thing it could be is pink-eye, another common issue. They have special medication for pink eye, but it is not required, I just use LA-200 and a few drops directly in the eye and it cures it.

The diarrhea is much more concerning. If it is bad, I would stop feeding the lamb formula and give it electrolytes instead, at least for 24 hours, then slowly reintroduce the formula. If you keep pounding the formula to her, she will just get acidosis and die.

If it is bacteria induced diarrhea, she is in even worse shape. I have had a few lambs bounce back from this, but it was a battle and giving the lamb "the full monty". Shots of dextrose, LA-200, Vitamin B complex, A and E, electrolytes. I got one now that is being bottle fed and he got the full monty, came out of it, then went right back into it again. I honestly think he was a preemie just by his size and lack of weight gain...oh and he is completely blind too.

As for the ewe, is this the one that got pregnancy toxemia right before lambing? I wondered if maybe her teeth were bad. That kind of stuff is genetically inherited and if she only raised single lambs at a younger age, it all makes perfect sense. It may not be the case, but I thought I would ask.
 
Rachelle Adams
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Assured that she gets all the vitamins and minerals, you should take the Lamb to the Vet's first.
The Vet will be able to tell you exactly what the lamb needs and help you find the proper milk.
 
r ranson
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My vet stopped treating livestock, I discovered last week.  Nearest one is about an hour and a boat ride away.  I also don't trust him with sheep.

Vet is no longer an option for me.  I need to learn to do this myself.
 
r ranson
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Yes, Mary is the one who had trouble lambing a week ago.  She's looking very healthy now, I checked her milk sacks for signs of infection, and so far nothing. 

Today, I couldn't be home to bottle feed them.  Early start, city work, late home to a ewe in full labour in need of assistance (in the middle of a field in a thunderstorm).  Couldn't push him in, couldn't pull him out, so we got one human pulling on the ewe and the other dislodging the legs so the lamb could come out the right way.  All is well.  One humungous baby boy with curly locks - he's bigger in size and weight than our month old lambs.


Mary and her lambs spent the day in the jug and they both look like they got quite a bit to eat. 

Mary's boy lamb is bouncy, energetic, underfoot and annoying.  In other words, he now appears healthy.  He had a hearty drink from the bottle this evening.  Then he spent about 20 minutes trying to get milk out of the sack hanging off the back of Larry (our pseudo-ram).  Apparently, boy sheep also go all squishy when they get punched in the balls.  I thought that only worked on humans.  This is good to know. 
I think he's ready for castration tomorrow.

The girl lamb is still a concern.  Her diarrhoea corresponds to when she drinks from the bottle.  Goats milk, a few minutes later she has the runs for two poops, then goes back to normal poop.  Has bottle, repeat.  This evening she only had a few guzzles from the bottle before she refused it.  She's strong enough to push it away, which she wasn't yesterday.  So small improvement there.  Some bouncing around, but still a lot of sleeping.

I fiddled with her eye a bit, the eyelid looked a bit different, but I can't see what's wrong.  It's less watery today.

With the improvement in the lambs health, Mary is taking more interest in her lambs. 

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and advice. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Bottle scours: pull her away from the Ewe, give her feedings of electrolytes for 24 hours, then return to regular bottle feedings, or bottle feeding/ewe feedings. If you go with bottle feedings and ewe feedings both, reduce the amount in the bottle. It sounds like having both bottle and ewe feedings is too much for her and causing the bottle scours (diarrhea from too much milk).
 
r ranson
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Ah, so that's what bottle scours look like.  Thanks.

I reduced the amount and no diarrhoea.  They are both keeping up with the rest of the flock now.  Still slow to gain weight, but I think they will start growing soon.

I think I'm going to give them half a bottle each in the evening until this jug of milk runs out.  If they keep improving at this rate, they should be well on track by then. 
 
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