Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bonus post: Bottle Feeding Basics with Lyn Brown

Mopple is a smart little lamb! By his third feeding he was nursing like a champ. He’s taking four ounces per feeding and wants more. He’s a husky little guy and would overeat; this can lead to enterotoxemia (, so we’ll have to monitor his intake, though we’ll move up to five ounces tonight when we go back to feeding at four-hour intervals.

California Red sheep ( breeder Lyn Brown of Shear Perfection Ranch ( in LaPlata, New Mexico, donated the following bottle feeding information for Hobby Farms Sheep and she’s allowed me to reprint it many times since then. If you’ve never raised a lamb or kid but want to, print this out and save it. The information is priceless!

Bottle Feeding Lambs with Lyn Brown

"What I usually do to get my new lambs started is sit with my legs crossed, tuck the lamb in the middle in a sitting position (front legs straight and butt on ground). I cup my left hand under the lamb's jaw and open the mouth and insert the nipple with the right hand; once the nipple is in the mouth, I balance and steady the nipple with the left hand that is still under the jaw.

"In other words, I keep the bottle and nose aligned so that the lamb doesn't spit or move the nipple to the side or back of the mouth. I elevate the bottle with the right hand only enough to avoid the lamb sucking air. In this position, you can feel the lamb's throat with the heel of your hand, and you know if it is swallowing.

"If you elevate the bottle too much, the milk can pour into the mouth, and if the lamb were not swallowing, the milk could enter the lungs. I try to keep the bottle as level as possible while keeping milk in the bottle cap and nipple. Of course, that means the more the bottle empties, the more tilt there needs to be.

"Most people kill their first bottle baby with kindness; they overfeed it because the lamb cries and they think it must be hungry. I know I did. I follow this feeding schedule strictly (no exceptions). If our lambs cry between feeds, we feed them Pedialyte or Gatorade. That won't hurt them as far as enterotoxemia goes and gives them electrolytes while filling the void for them.

Days 1-2 : 2-3 oz, 6x/day (colostrum or formula with colostrum replacer powder)

Days 3-4: 3-5 oz, 6x/day (gradually changing over to lamb milk replacer)

Days 5-14: 4-6 oz, 4x/day

Days 15-21: 6-8 oz, 4x/day

Days 22-35: work up gradually to 16 oz, 3x/day
At about 6 weeks, I begin slowly decreasing the morning and evening feedings and leave the middle feeding 16 oz., until I eliminate the morning and evening bottle entirely (remember, they are eating their share of hay or pasture by now). I continue with the one 16-oz bottle for about two weeks, then eliminate the bottle feedings entirely.

"By making changes gradually, you can observe changes in the condition of the animal and judge and adjust accordingly. Gradual changes also avoid the complications (some of which can be fatal) of sudden changes in diet. Whatever you do, when you buy milk replacer, use lamb replacer. All-purpose milk replacers and calf replacers do not work well with lambs."

The same schedule and amounts work for standard-size kids as well. We feed slightly more to Boer kids and slightly less to our Miniature Cheviot lambs. The only thing I do differently, since I’m home all day anyway, is continue feeding six times in a 24 hour period until the lamb or kid is three weeks old. To do that I tally the amount of milk Lyn says to feed in 24 hours and divide by six. After that I slowly decrease the number of feedings, still using Lyn’s recommended allotment of milk and dividing by the number of feedings, until the baby is getting three feedings at six weeks of age. Then we’re back on Lyn’s schedule again.

We don’t use milk replacers, though we did until we got our dairy goats. Some worked well (Land O’Lakes Lamb Milk Replacer was so tasty that I put it on my breakfast cereal!), some didn’t, but we find virtually every lamb and kid thrives on high-butterfat Nubian goat milk. If you do use replacer, always buy a high-quality, species-specific milk replacer based on milk products, not soy!

Another alternative to milk replacer is a full-fat milk formula given to me by Boer Goat breeder Claudia Gurn of MAC Goats ( To make it she pours 1/5 of the contents of a gallon jug of store-bought milk into another container, then she refills the jug using grocery store half-and-half. I used this formula for both kids and lambs in the interim between using milk replacer and buying my Nubians and it worked extremely well! However, since ewe’s milk is higher in protein and butterfat than goat milk, I poured off ¼ of the jug of milk and replaced it with a quart of half-and-half when mixing formula for lambs.

The secret to raising happy, healthy bottle lambs and kids is consistency: follow a schedule exactly and if you’re feeding milk replacer, follow the directions and mix it the same way every time.

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