You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive.
These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website
(through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only.
As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.
To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at
Newsletter Archive index:
Lamb Artificial Rearing Checklist
Livestock Update, January 1997
Steve Umberger, Animal and Poultry Sciences
Artificial rearing of lambs
does not have to be labor intensive or accompanied by high levels
of lamb death loss. With 1996 average lamb prices in excess of
$.91 per pound, every lamb saved results in increased
profitability for the producer. Advances in the production of
high quality commercial lamb milk replacers, techniques that
reduce labor through the use of self-feeding equipment, the use
of early weaning, and the application of certain well-timed
management practices make artificial rearing a practical and
profitable alternative. Using results from a Virginia Tech
study, the actual time necessary to adjust 50 or fewer lambs to
milk replacer, mixing milk replacer, cleaning equipment, and the
general observation of lambs for health and thriftiness is
approximately 1.5 hours daily. With a retail price of $30 for a
25 lb bag of milk replacer, lambs reared artificially can be
successfully weaned to dry feed at an average cost of
approximately $25 per head. Using average flock production costs
in Virginia, the cost of twin-born lambs reared on the ewe to the
same live weight as lambs reared artificially is $25 to 30 per
head. Therefore, with proper management, orphan or mismothered
lambs can be successfully reared on milk replacer at a similar
cost to the ewe. Consequently, sheep producers with flocks
having a high percentage of multiple births should consider
artificial rearing on a self-feeding system as a means to save
more lambs and increase profitability through a higher percentage
of lambs marketed. Shown below is an artificial rearing
checklist for lambs reared on self-feeding buckets. For more
information, contact a local Virginia Cooperative Extension
- Obtain supplies and a source of frozen colostrum well ahead
- Select the weaker, less aggressive lambs from ewes with
three or more lambs, and malnourished or mismothered lambs from
other ewes as candidates for artificial rearing.
- Make sure lambs receive colostrum from the ewe or administer
supplemental colostrum directly to lambs within 12 to 18 hours
after birth. Lambs should receive 20 mL of colostrum per pound
of body weight. It works best if feedings can be split 4 hours
- Administer .25 mg selenium per 10 lb of body weight.
- Only use a high quality milk replacer specifically
formulated for lambs. Calf milk replacer is unacceptable.
- Use cold milk replacer (35 to 45 F) to minimize spoilage and
- Approximately 4 to 5 hours after the last feeding of
colostrum, begin training lambs to the nipple.
- Repeat training sessions every 4 to 6 hours until lambs are
sucking on their own. Excessive handling of lambs may cause them
to become overly dependent on human assistance.
- Observe lambs closely for the first 3 to 5 days. Make sure
all lambs are fully adjusted to the nipple.
- Clean milk feeding equipment every 2 to 3 days with warm
soap and water.
- By five days of age, provide lambs with a free-choice source
of water and a highly palatable, high protein (18 to 20% crude
protein) dry feed.
- Pen wean lambs abruptly at a minimum of 20 lb body weight.
- Vaccinate lambs for Clostridium perfringens C & D at 3 to 4
weeks of age and booster 3 weeks later.
- Continue feeding high protein dry feed until lambs weigh 40
- At 40 lb body weight, switch lambs to a lower protein
growing feed or place lambs on high quality pasture for grazing.
Virginia Cooperative Extension