The Best Way to Take Care of a Rejected Lamb

Updated on March 11, 2018
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I have been raising sheep for over 30 years. The oldest Dutch native sheep breed is called Drenthe Heath Sheep.

There are several factors that can lead a ewe to reject a lamb.
There are several factors that can lead a ewe to reject a lamb. | Source

Taking Care of Newborn Lambs

Having bred sheep for over 30 years, I now raise a very old and rare Dutch variety called Drenthe Heath Sheep, or Drents Heideschaap in Dutch. Usually the ewes take very good care of their own lambs, as this breed still stands very close to nature and natural behavior. But sometimes I do have to step in when, for some reason, the ewe won't or can't feed her lambs by herself.

Not all breeders will take care of a rejected or abandoned lamb. Some say that if a lamb has been rejected by its mom, there must be something wrong and they get rid of both. I don't do that, because there are so many (sometimes external) reasons why ewes won't take care of their lambs. I always give a ewe a second chance to prove that they can be a good mom. If she rejects her lambs a second time the next year, then I know she's not a good mom and I don't breed the ewe again.

Baby Lamb

I noticed that quite often people refer to a lamb as 'baby lamb'. However 'baby lamb' is a misnomer. It's a double referring to the same thing so to speak. A lamb is the baby of a sheep. Just like a puppy is the baby of a dog and a kitten is the baby of a cat.

Birth of a Lamb

A few years ago I had a chance to take shots of the birth of a lamb from start to finish. Alas due to some rules beyond our control, I can not show every step of the way.

Birth of a lamb: picking up scent.
Birth of a lamb: picking up scent. | Source
Birth of a lamb: having contractions.
Birth of a lamb: having contractions. | Source
Birth of a lamb: the lamb is in the right position, frontlegs first with the head on top.
Birth of a lamb: the lamb is in the right position, frontlegs first with the head on top. | Source
Birth of a lamb: landed, and mom starts to lick it dry.
Birth of a lamb: landed, and mom starts to lick it dry. | Source
Birth of a lamb: getting on its feet.
Birth of a lamb: getting on its feet. | Source
Birth of a lamb: not easy to stand. The lamb falls down frequently
Birth of a lamb: not easy to stand. The lamb falls down frequently | Source
Birth of a lamb: finally. It only takes about 15 minutes or less before it's ready to find that nipple.
Birth of a lamb: finally. It only takes about 15 minutes or less before it's ready to find that nipple. | Source

How Do Ewes and Lambs Recognize Each Other?

When a ewe is giving birth, she makes these special noises that sound a bit like snoring. She is talking to her offspring inside. Once the lamb is born, they both make noises. Each lamb and ewe has their specific noise or voice, and that's how a ewe and her lamb will recognize each other in the midst of a big herd. They also recognize each other's smell. Put another lamb in front of a ewe and she will push it away, in not a friendly way. Our ewes have no pardon for lambs of other ewes and will even take it up their horns and swing it in the air.

Within a few hours however, the lambs learn to stay with their moms and keep out of the other ewes' way. In our breed, it is almost impossible to let a ewe raise a lamb that's not her own. In some other breeds this is often done and then one doesn't have to bottle-feed an abandoned lamb. But our ewes are normally very ruthless and will injure or kill a strange lamb if it's getting too close to them.

Some Reasons a Ewe Might Reject Her Lambs

  • The ewe has no motherly feelings. It sometimes happens a ewe has no motherly feelings. When a ewe is really, really nasty to her lambs and won't have them near her, and then I won't breed with her again.
  • Delivery caused the ewe a lot of pain. A young ewe connects birth pain with the lamb and doesn't want it near her. I had this happen once. The young ewe had had a very hard time delivering the lamb, but as I couldn't be sure if it was that or the reason above, I decided not to breed with her again.
  • The ewe is too young. If the ewe is too young, she might not know yet what to do with a lamb. This happens quite often when breeding with ewes in the same year they have been born. At least it happens quite often with the breed I have, because this breed matures slowly, like wild animals. I never breed with ewes in the same year they have been born.
  • The lamb is sick or weak. There can be something wrong with the lamb. Most ewes sense that and don't bother anymore. Of course you can try to keep the lamb alive, but I don't do that. If the lamb is not good, I'll put it down, because I don't want to breed with weak animals.
  • Something is wrong with the lamb's teeth. This causes pain when it's nursing. Lambs are born with teeth in the lower jaw, but they are covered with a soft layer of skin so they won't injure mom's teats while drinking. Sometimes this skin does not cover all of the teeth and then it hurts while the lamb sucks the teat.
  • The ewe can be sick. Sometimes ewes suffer from inflammation of the udder, could have a bad udder, or the afterbirth won't come out and becomes infected. In any of these cases, you should call your vet because the ewe could die a painful death.
  • The lamb has been touched by strangers. Never let family or friends pick up a newborn lamb. Picking up a lamb too soon can change its smell and cause the mom to not recognize her own lamb anymore. Even if you're the owner/breeder, be careful not to pet your dog before you pick up a lamb.
  • Something scared the hell out of mom. Take precautions that no dogs can scare the mom while giving birth to her lambs. Once, at a friend's place, a ewe had just given birth quite close to the fence and the neighbor's dog suddenly came running and barking. The ewe was so scared that she didn't dare come close to her lamb anymore.

Sometimes Ewes Steal Lambs From Other Ewes

If you breed lambs, you may encounter this strange situation. Here is what happened on my farm. Maybe hearing this story will prevent you from losing a lamb.

I once had a ewe that used to steal lambs from other ewes, long before she was due to deliver her own. The first time it happened, I thought she had given birth overnight. But then later that day I heard the lamb bleating, and discovered the "mom" didn't even had an udder yet. I thought something was wrong with her so I took both ewe and lamb home and started to bottle-feed the lamb (artificial colostrum first). Two months later, when all ewes and their lambs had been moved to another meadow, I was doing my daily inspection tour when I discovered a tiny little lamb in the grass. I thought, 'That can not be, all of the ewes have given birth.' Then here comes this ewe, the one I mentioned above, and I saw that she had a big, swollen udder. It was only then that I realized that this was her lamb and that she'd stolen the other from another ewe's twin lambs right after it was born.

The second time she had stolen one of twins that already were about two weeks old. She wouldn't let it go and was fighting off the lamb's true mom. It took me quite a while and a lot of running around before I could catch her. I had to take her away from the other ewes and kept her in the barn until she delivered her own babies three weeks later.

Sick Ewe and Triplet Lambs on the Bottle

A Story of Triplet Rejected Lambs

This year I had a ewe that was carrying a heavy load. I reckoned she had twins inside. The last week of her pregnancy she could hardly stand up, she tripped a lot over her own feet, but she still ate well.

The birth went very well and quickly, but she didn't react at all to the screaming triplets that had come out. She didn't reject them either, but she turned away when the lambs tried to find her nipples. So I checked if everything down there was in order, only to find that this ewe only had a very small udder with hardly any milk in it. Last year there had been no problem at all with this ewe.

I called the vet to find out what could be the matter. He told me that probably due to the space these triplets took inside the belly; there wasn't enough room for the stomach to contain a lot of the necessary food. So in fact this ewe was starving herself to death, giving all she got to her triplets inside. After the birth, she was weak and needed all her strength to keep herself going.

This was the first time I have encountered this in 30 years of breeding.

It Is Very Important That a Ewe and her Lamb Have Time to Bond.

A lamb and its mother.
A lamb and its mother. | Source
Triplet lambs.
Triplet lambs. | Source

Don't Disturb the Bonding Process Between Ewe and Her Lamb

Especially with a breed like ours, which is still so close to nature, you have to be careful to not disturb the bonding between the ewe and her newborn lamb. The ewe might not object to her normal caretaker (the breeder), but she might object to strangers touching her lamb. Strangers have a scent she doesn't know. If a stranger picks up the lamb and holds it for a while, the lamb may take on their scent. The ewe might not recognize her lamb anymore and will reject it. Sometimes I let friends watch a birth, but always from a distance.

It is essential to give the mom and child the time to bond. When they're giving birth out in the field, a ewe will always find a place away from the other sheep, somewhere in a corner of the meadow. She will stay there sometimes for several days, until she thinks it's time to introduce her lambs to the other sheep. Some ewes are so protective that they will attack a ewe or lamb that comes too close. This year even I got a head bang from a ewe when I tried to see if her lamb was a boy or a girl. "Hands off!' she said. "It's mine."

Caring for a Rejected Lamb

Give the Lamb Colostrum Within 24 Hours of Birth

All lambs must drink a certain amount of colostrum right after birth and within 24 hours, or they will be vulnerable to all kind of diseases and will die sooner or later.

The colostrum contains all kinds of stuff to protect the lamb from getting sick. You can get colostrum either by milking the ewe, or if that doesn't work you can use colostrum from cows or goats. You can do that beforehand and keep it in the freezer in small cubes so it will take not too long to melt.

Nowadays you can also buy artificial colostrum. Each breeder should have two or three packs on hand when the lambing season starts, just to be on the safe side, because ewes often lamb at night.

If you don't have all of this on hand, another possibility is the following recipe:

  • One quart fresh raw cow or goat milk (use good quality pasteurized cow's milk if raw is not available).
  • Two egg yolks.
  • Two teaspoons of glucose or lactose (if unavailable, use sugar).
  • One teaspoon cod liver oil.
  • Mix well and give to the lamb in small portions.

This formula however doesn't contain any of the antibodies that lambs need. As lambs don't get immunity via the placenta before birth, they have to ingest it through colostrum. This formula might, however, keep the lamb alive until you can get colostrum from elsewhere.

Bottle-feeding a lamb.
Bottle-feeding a lamb. | Source

Coaxing Another Ewe to Adopt a Rejected Lamb

Most ewes won't accept the lamb of another ewe, but sometimes you're lucky. It can only be done if you have two or more ewes delivering lambs at about the same time.

Getting another ewe to adopt a lamb that is not their own is difficult. There are several methods you can try, but you have to be very careful because you could end up with another lamb you have to bottle-feed. If the ewe you have in mind gets too stressed, she might reject her own lamb too, and that is not what you want.

Different Methodes to Get a Lamb Adopted:

  • Smear the rejected lamb in with the birth fluid of the other ewe and put it in front of her. She might think she delivered twins. There is a small chance you can deceive the ewe. It has never worked for me though.
  • Some breeders who have a stillborn lamb remove that lamb's skin and put the skin over the rejected lamb. Put the lamb in front of the ewe who lost her lamb. I have never tried this.
  • There are so-called "adoption sprays" which you use on both lambs, both the rejected and not rejected in an effort to deceive the mom. This has never worked for me.

Sometimes you get lucky and a ewe is overwhelmed by motherly feelings and reacts very strongly to the sound of a distressed, rejected lamb. This happens sometimes with ewes who had lambs before and it happened to one of mine just at the right time. The ewe voluntarily adopted a rejected lamb at the moment she was in labor of her own lambs. I was so happy; I could have kissed her for taking the upcoming bottle-feeding load off my shoulders.

One of my ewes with her adopted lamb (left) and her own lamb (right). Adoption of other lambs in this breed hardly ever happens.
One of my ewes with her adopted lamb (left) and her own lamb (right). Adoption of other lambs in this breed hardly ever happens. | Source

If You Have to Bottle-Feed the Lamb

When a lamb cannot nurse off a ewe and the breeder decides to bottle-feed, the bottle-feeding must continue for at least two months, but preferable a bit longer. It is time-consuming. I only do it if I think the lamb has a fair chance of growing into a healthy sheep. To raise a weak lamb at all costs is not good for you, the lamb, and certainly not for your herd if you want to keep the breed healthy and strong.

Newborn lambs drink little amounts, but often, so as a start you have to feed them every two hours. You can either use a beer bottle with a rubber teat or you can buy a special lamb feeding bottle. I've used both during the past years, but lately I prefer the feeding bottles. They allow you to know exactly how much the lamb is drinking because they have a graduation scale printed on them.

A healthy lamb does not necessarily need to be fed at night. It will survive the night without and is all the more willing to drink early in the morning when it's hungry. If you have a very weak lamb, then you must feed it at night too. For the first days, it can be a bit difficult to get the lamb to drink from the bottle. You have to keep trying over and over until he or she grasps it.

Feeding schedule for the first week: Every two hours from early morning to late evening.

  • 8:00 a.m.
  • 10:00 a.m.
  • 12:00 p.m.
  • 2:00 p.m.
  • 4:00 p.m.
  • 6:00 p.m.
  • 8:00 p.m.
  • 10:00 p.m.

If you go to bed late, then give the last feeding at midnight.

  • After the first two weeks, feedings can be spaced to every three hours, but don't forget to increase their portion a bit too.
  • In the second month, the lambs will increase their portions but drink less often, just like human babies. Slowly increase the hours between feeding times, the lamb will be drinking a much larger portion than in the beginning. Follow the instructions on the package and be a bit creative. If a lamb keeps bleating, it's not getting enough milk.

Keep the Rejected Lamb Warm and in Company With Other Sheep

Some breeders separate an abandoned lamb from the other sheep and put it in a small box under a hanging heating lamp. I never do that, because then the lamb is isolated and when it's not among its own kind. It is possible for the lamb to forget it is a lamb and not a human being, because it will associate itself with its caretaker.

Back in 2001, when the foot and mouth disease exploded over Europe, I had an abandoned lamb. We were not allowed to move any sheep, but instead of letting it die in the meadow I took it home to bottle-feed it. As I was almost the first person it saw, the lamb thought I was her mom and she followed me everywhere. It was of course cute to see, but when I brought it back to the meadow after two months, the other sheep scared the hell out of her and she ran away from them, screaming for help.

She would run to people passing by the meadow, screaming her lungs out and following them all the way to the end of the meadow. It took her several weeks to learn to be a sheep again. Whenever I came into the meadow, she would come up and walk right in front of me, making me fall over her. In the end I had to sell her, because I kept stepping on her.

From then on, I have kept abandoned lambs in the company of other sheep. For the first week I keep them in the barn until the lamb knows that her food is coming from me. They learn fast and within a day or two they will come running over when you call them.

Rejected lamb
Rejected lamb | Source

Using Powdered Milk

Like you would use special powdered formula for a human baby, there's special powder milk for lambs. It contains all the minerals and vitamins that lambs need. Be sure to buy the right one, not milk for calves, and never use cow's milk that humans drink.

Normally shops that sell farm animal food supplies will surely have this milk replacer available. Don't buy the small bags; buy the big ones right away because you will need more than one until bottle-feeding is done.

The bags include directions for how to dilute the formula with water. Follow those directions, or your lamb will get sick. The first poop the lamb makes should be black. After that the color will be bright yellow and it can be very sticky stuff. It may stick to the lamb's tail and legs. Watch out that the tail doesn't get "glued" to its behind, or the lamb won't be able to get its poop out. You can clean its behind with a cloth and warm water.

A Baby Bottle Nipple Is Not Suitable for Lambs

So, why can't you feed a lamb with a baby bottle? Well, the difference lies in the length of the nipples. Women have short nipples and ewes have long teats. Using a nipple made for a human baby, the lamb won't be able to get a good grip. You can try it if nothing else is available, but it won't be easy for the lamb to drink enough milk. In almost every store that sells farm animal supplies, you can find special lamb nursery bottles with the right size nipples.

How to Bottle Feed a Lamb

Put the lamb in such a position that its head is away from you. Make sure the lamb can't back up. At first you have to open its mouth and put the nipple in. Squeeze it a bit so the lamb will taste some milk and as the lamb is hungry it starts sucking.

Sometimes you need to use some pressure (open the mouth) to get the nipple in and holding the head under the chin keeps the head in the right position. Make sure the lamb won't suck air.

After a day or two they know who's feeding them and when they get stronger you can change position.

After one or two weeks I teach them to drink from the milk bar and when they know where to find it, they all move to the meadow. Then you only have to fill the tank two or three times a day and they can drink whenever they want.

How to bottle feed a lamb
How to bottle feed a lamb | Source
How to bottle feed a lamb
How to bottle feed a lamb | Source
How to bottle feed a lamb
How to bottle feed a lamb | Source

Lambs Must Be Bottle-Fed for at Least Two Months

If you want the lambs to grow up healthy, you need to bottle feed them at least until they are about two or two and a half months old. By that time, I myself give them one or two bottles a day (or fill the milk bar once a day) until they are three months old, but that's because our breed is a slowly growing breed.

At the age of about two weeks, the lambs start to nibble on grass or hay and when they grow older you notice that they start chewing their cut too, but they still need their milk.

When you watch ewes, feeding their lambs, you can see that the ewe gets less and less patience when the lambs want to drink. They too decrease their feeding times slowly until they refuse to let them drink at all. Lambs of two months old still need some extra food and you can give that in the form of lamb concentrates.

One main difference in the food requirement of our breed and many other sheep breed is that our breed needs copper in their mineral supplies. If they don't get it or don't get enough copper, the sheep eventually will get very sick and might even die. Every meadow is different in how many natural minerals and vitamins it contains. Providing minerals as an extra to the sheep is a must and they won't overeat themselves, they just take what they need. Some years they don't empty one bucket, other years they can't get enough and eat 3 of them. One never can tell.

If you should obtain a few ewes/lambs, please make some inquiries about their food/mineral/vitamins needs, because they can be quite different for different breeds. A necessity for one sheep breed, could well kill another breed.

What if There Are More Lambs to Feed?
What if There Are More Lambs to Feed? | Source

What if There Are More Lambs to Feed?

In case you have more than one lamb to bottle-feed, look for multi-teat milk bar feeders. You can teach multiple lambs to drink from these feeders. It takes some time, because some lambs are smart and some are not or are just stubborn.

The down side of above milk bar feeders is that you don't have any control about the amount of milk each lamb really drinks. The strong lambs will take the biggest portions and the weak lambs often get not enough. I therefore replaced my multi-teat milk bar feeder with a multi bottle milk bar feeder which gives you exact control over how much every lamb gets.

Last year (2015) due to circumstances, I had to bottle-feed 8 lambs at the same time. In the video below you can see how I managed that.

Sometimes You Can Use Surrogate Moms

A friend of mine has donkeys and breed them too. Sometimes she had a chance to use those donkeys as a surrogate mom for her rejected lambs.

A donkey feeding a lamb.
A donkey feeding a lamb. | Source

A surrogate donkey mom can help, but I rather see the ewe taking care of her lamb(s) in the natural way

Nursing ewe
Nursing ewe | Source
Nursing ewe
Nursing ewe | Source
Nursing ewe
Nursing ewe | Source

Feeding Supplemental Mix

Sheep mix is supplemental food for pregnant ewes, as they need extra nutrition to carry out their pregnancy and to produce more milk. You can feed lambs a special supplemental mix from the age of three to four weeks.

Sheep mix consists of grained dried nutrition including all the minerals they need. It really helps the lambs to prepare for winter. Lambs born in late summer especially benefit from sheep mix, because by the time they start eating grass, the grass is low in vitamins.

The length of time you have to feed sheep mix depends on the condition of ewes and lambs. I stop feeding sheep mix when the grass is growing again in spring and the sheep and lambs can eat the new grass.

Lambs like to climb, either on their mom or on something else.
Lambs like to climb, either on their mom or on something else. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Titia Geertman

    Don't hesitate to ask questions or make comments here.

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      • Titia profile image

        Titia Geertman 5 weeks ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Hi Jo,

        Sorry to hear you lamb died. Normally the milk of the mom will dry up and will cause no problem. You have to keep an eye on her though and if you think she's not alright, call the vet.

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        Jo 5 weeks ago

        The baby lamb died 2 days old what to do with the ewe and mastitis

      • Titia profile image

        Titia Geertman 3 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Hi Retha Griner,

        Your question is a bit difficult for me to answer because I'm not a vetenarian. You did the right thing to made sure the lambs got enough colostrum. You say the lambs are now 6 days old and you feed them every four hours. How much do you give them each time? Are you following the instructions of the powdered milk, because if you give them too much that can cause diarrhea too. I don't know what pepto and pedialyte are. I'm Dutch and we have different medication overhere. With lambs that small, diarrhea is not good because they won't hold the vitamines in and he will eventually become dehydrated and die. I suggest you call in a vet or take him to a vet and don't wait too long. Wish you luck.

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        Retha Griner 3 months ago

        Hi, i have 2 lambs that are 6 days old. The mother didnt produce milk and rejected the male. Im not sure why. He is solid black and they have been doing good. The female seem to be getting scours a few days ago. I gave her pepto and it immediately stopped. They have been bottle fed since day one. At first they were separated, as i cared for the female n my son Cared for the male. They were joined again on day 3. He was healthy. I went from the colostrum newborn feed to milk replacer 2-45 days powdered formula. They both are bottle feeding every 4 hrs now until 12 am n then start again around 6 am. Shes been doing really good and he is too except that hes started diarrhea (i call it that cause she was yellow running all down her back side (scours) and he is dropping black liquid runs. I tried pepto with him and its not stopping. Hes not going more than 2-3 times a day. I started Pedialyte on him 2 days ago. But today i feel this has to get under control before it progresses. Hes alert active happy. But i can tell its draining him a little. Hes still running and playing. Should i go to nothing but Pedialyte for 24 hrs and mix it w his formula gradually increasing the formula solution? I think the atmosphere changes n formula changes could have caused it. Not sure. Also when should i introduce hay and what brand?

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        Oluwaninshola Ifeoluwa 7 months ago

        Really found this article useful but the materials are not easy to find here in Nigeria

      • Titia profile image

        Titia Geertman 10 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        #Diane: First of all I think you've done a great job so far taking care of this lamb. You know I'm not a vet so I can't help you in that area. You said the lamb doesn't have any interest in grass, but a lamb of this age is just starting to nibble on solid food and not all grass is the same and not all grass is tasteful. Besides that you mentioned terrible weather conditions and chilly at night and that means that it must be close to winter and if that's true then the nutritional value of the grass is zero. At this age the lamb certainly needs to have constant acces to some good quality hay and special pellets for upgrowing lambs. Lambs need to learn to eat them and that can take some time. Keep in mind that sheep won't eat hay from the floor, you have to put it in some box or basket. It's a bit difficult to give you good advice because all depends on the circomstances. Keep giving him the milk and you don't have to do that at night.

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        Diane 10 months ago

        I took on a lamb after it was deemed by a farmer the mother had no milk. He gave it colostrum and its first feed it is not his lamb and I have been left to get on with it, the owner was away, I fed it small amounts every 2 hours and every 4 during the night for 48 hours then every 4 hours for a week day and night as he was very weak, he recovered well.

        The first 3 weeks went well, then it became sick, bloated tummy, very lethargic and not feeding also trembling at times. Ended up taking it to a vet it had pain and antibiotic injections also liquid paraffin. It perked up then went downhill but has perked up again and taking feeds of 200ml 5 times a day that is where I am at now. While it is unwell it has lived in the utility room and has a hot water bottle at night (Scottish Borders) as it has been chilly at nights. By now it was planned for it to join the flock including its mother, a Jacob, for short periods, kept just up the road on 20 acres. I can't leave it outside in the terrible weather we are experiencing at present while it is unwell it doesn't want to be outside for long in the garden. Why does it eat dirt, chew twigs and any other rubbish when I have a lawn, it shows little interest in grass. I have run out of hay which I used for bedding with a clean towel on top and now use newspapers it may be coincidence but he started to improve yesterday when this change was made. He has clean water and some pellets for lambs another farmer sent to me via the owner. I have sent the owner an email but have had no reply so am on my own with this. I have never raised a lamb before and only hope I am doing the right thing. Where is the best place to get a regime.

      • Titia profile image

        Titia Geertman 10 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Lori: Please don't let young lambs drink water, it's not good for them at that age. They feel full, but without any nourishment. Lambs of two weeks old just start nibbling at solid food. Give them a handful of special lambs concentrates, they will start to eat grass too, but that doesn't mean they don't need that much milk anymore. They at least need 4 feedings a day and follow the instructions on the powdermilk. Sometimes it happens that lambs have an allergy towards the powder milk. I would advice you to take them to a vet, at least the one that's badly on scours, because scours can drain a lamb dry.

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        CornerstoneRanch 10 months ago

        Thank you so much, Titia. It's so awesome to communicate with someone in The Netherlands!! I went back to bottles because one now has scours. The other two a bit but one is really bad. She doesn't seem sick, but everything goes right through her :(

        I had them on just electrolytes for the last 24 hours and the 2 are much improved, but the other is not. I'm now putting water in the bucket and if I take them to the nipples they drink it. I'll keep using the bottles. I can actually feed 3 at once. Have a great day and thanks again for your help, Lori

      • Titia profile image

        Titia Geertman 10 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Hi Lori, first of all congrats on the lambs. Not an easy task to start with lambs that need bottle feeding. Two weeks old lambs will drink a lot when they have a chance. They will not die but too much milk at once isn't very healthy either. I used to use a milkbar too in the past, but the problem with a milkbar is that you don't have any control over the amount of milk each lamb is drinking. So I changed to a bottle rack later on as you can see in one of the video. You could buy some bottles and feed them with those for another two or three weeks. You then can give them the exact amount of milk they need. Or when using the milkbar, you could let the male go first and put the girls in later. You certainly should put some effort in getting the male to drink enough (he will eventually when he's hungry). Bottle feeding lambs is a lot of work. Wishing you succes.

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        CornerstoneRanch 11 months ago

        Hi Titia,

        We bought our first lambs 10 days ago, so we are brand new to sheep. We have 3 bottle lambs; 1 is 12 days old and 2 are 16 days old. We bought a milk bar for them today and all 3 took to it right away. My question is how do you keep them from gorging themselves? My 2 little girls gobbled down about 1 1/2 feedings for all 3 in a few minutes as the bigger male was trying to decide if he liked it or not. Both girls looked like they had eaten a baseball. They both just got over scours and I don't want them to overeat and get it again. Any tricks or suggestions would be sooooooo helpful. Thanks, Lori

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        Vivian 14 months ago

        Hi Titia ;is very nice to heard from you again ,thank you soo much!my lamb had the artificial colostrum .because when we find her she is almost dead,her sister is already drinking and walking!she can't even lift her head!thanks again!

      • Titia profile image

        Titia Geertman 14 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        #Vivian; Well that could be a bit difficult to do because 1. the lamb has forgotten how to drink mom's milk and 2. mom's milk tastes different from the bottle milk. So you have to teach the lamb to drink with his mom again. You should let the lamb get very hungry and then try to get the nipple of the mom in the lamb's mouth while squeezing the nipple so milk will come out. Try and try again.

        Question: did you give the lamb either mom's colostrum or artificial colostrum within 24 hours of his birth?

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        Vivian 14 months ago

        Thank you so much !now her mother want her back!but she doesn't know how to drink milk from the mother!what can I do to help her? Please help!

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        Titia Geertman 14 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        #Vivian: Never give a 6 day old lamb water, it will get sick. You need to give it special lambs' milk every 2/3 hours at least 5/6 times a day.

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        Frances Toney 14 months ago

        Thank you for your response. I will look that sight up. I too noticed the similarity to your Drenthe Heathe sheep.

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        Titia Geertman 14 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        #Frances Toney: I don't know the breed so I googled it and came upon a breeders Association. I'm not allowed to put the link here, but if you put 'Hog Island Sheep' in your browser, you surely will find the website and some breeders who can answer your question better then I can. Good luck, it's a nice breed, a bit similar to my Drenthe Heathe Sheep.

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        Frances Toney 14 months ago

        Hello Titia Geertman, I have three Hog Island lambs. Do you know what their mineral needs could be. I cannot find any information on the internet.

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        Titia Geertman 16 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Hi Claudia, if it's runny dirreha than I think you should call a vet. The yellow poop should be a bit sticky, but shouldn't be running.

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        Claudia 16 months ago

        My 8 day old lamb was doing fine drinking supplements lamb formula. He stil dinks, not as much and not as often, but now started to have yellow runny dirrreha. What can I do to help my lamb

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        Titia Geertman 22 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        # Valery, sorry I wasn't around for a while. The lambs need to be bottlefed for at least another month and you can put them back into the flock at any time. It's normal that the adult ewes don't want them to come too close to them and they will show that by banging them away. The lambs will learn very quickly to avoid these bangings. In open field they will not get hurt like in a closed barn, because they can get away. It's a normal behaviour, they need to learn to know their place in the flock.

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        Valerie 22 months ago

        I have a four week old set of triplets thatbthe mother excepted the largest and was tossing the other two around the barn and grinding them into the floor and walls of the barn,. By the time I noticed both were quite crippled. We took them away to bottle feed. Once stable, a week later, we used the chicken tractor to set them in amongst the flock. Everyone come to say hi...their mom came with murder in her, having a go at them, thankfully the wire enclosure stopped her. So now they are separated and a healthy four weeks old, starting to eat feed, grass, and drink water. I have a butcher date for their nasty mother. My question is how do i introduce the orphans ewes backninto the flock and at what time?

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        Titia Geertman 2 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Hi Quiltgirikfo, sorry for my late answer, I was away for a few days. A lamb of 7 days old should poop bright yellow poop, which quite often is a bit sticky. You should check her behind, because sometimes when the yellow poop is too sticky, it will cling to her behind, shutting off the anus. In that case you should hold the lamb's behind in a bucket of warm water for the poop to soften while trying to get it off. If a newborn lamb wouldn't poop at all it would be dead within a few days. Four times a day feeding is a bit low for a one week old lamb, it should at least get 6 feedings a day. You don't have to feed it during the night. A lamb doesn't eat anything until they're about 2 to 3 weeks old, then they'll start nibbling on some solid food. Be careful not to feed too much grain, because it can ferment and then burn their stomach.

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        Quiltgirlkfo 2 years ago

        Really Ed some help. One of our friends had a 5 day old lamb whose mother rejected. Friend was bottle feeding. We took her on. We have a farm but no sheep. I have been bottle feeding her 4 times per day, taking hire for walks at least twice daily. Oh, she is at this writing 7 days old. She appears to be happy and healthy. Silly though it seems, I am concerned she hasn't pooped yet. She shows a little interest in alfalfa and a little grain feed but doesn't eat any. She spends a good portion of the day in a good sized pin with shelter as well as in a very large box in the bedroom at night. She sleeps through. So, how concerned should I be that I have not seen any poop yet. She urinates just fine. Thanks much.

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        Titia Geertman 2 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        #Katie: Yes that happens and it's probably the reason why they sold them. By all means leave the lamb with its mom and other twin. It will learn very quickly to avoid the head bangs. Did you check the ewes nipples to see if milk is coming out of both? As the lamb is smaller than the other one, you might consider feeding it every two hours, because it has to catch up. As long as the lamb gets enough warm milk to drink at regular hours it's ok. Ewes don't keep their lambs warm, the lambs often cuddle up together and if not, it's not a problem either, unless the lamb is not vivid at all.

        Talk to the lamb while bottle feeding it so it gets to know your voice and connects it with feeding time. Within a week it will respond to your voice and will come running to you to get its milk.

        I have to bottle feed one of my lambs this year too and it's doing quite well. She comes running to me, drinks all the milk in no time and then goes back to the flock.

        Good luck.

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        Katie 2 years ago

        Hi, we are beginners at raising sheep and just bought our first East Friesian ewe with two 3 week old twin lambs. Right away we noticed one was much smaller and the mom was not letting it get any milk and pushing it away with its head. Yet, when we pick it up to bottle feed her, the ewe gets agitated. They all sleep together at night as well. So while she won't give it any milk, she still seems to be protective of her lamb. Is this normal and is it dangerous to keep separating the lamb from her mom and twin to keep it warm and bottle feed her? I feel like at one point if we keep doing that, the ewe will abandon the lamb altogether and not even keep it warm at night..

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        Titia Geertman 2 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @DandelionsElise: you said that the lamb was a few days old when you got him and that he had black tar like stool. I think your neighbour wasn't telling you the truth about this lamb's age, because the black tar like stool is the very first stool a lamb gets within one or two hours after birth. After that it turns yellow (from the milk) and that can be very stickie sometimes. You have to pay attention if it's very stickie because when it dries up it's getting very hard and in some cases it will close up the lamb's anus. You have to clean it with a cloth and warm water.

        So if you got him on Feb 6 and he had black stool, he's born at Feb 6 and is now (Feb 12) only a week old. If you feed him every 4 hours, he's not getting enough milk on a whole day and likely will slowly get undernourished, resulting in growth resession.

        However the biggest problem is that it's not known if the lamb got any colostrum from its mom or the artificial powder colostrum. If not, he could be in serious trouble because he will be very susceptible to all kind of diseases. A lamb needs enough colostrum within 24 hours after birth. Giving it after 24 hours it doesn't have any effect anymore.

        Another thing is that you didn't mention if it's a ram or ewe. If it's a ram and he has the luck to stay alive, you won't be able to keep him as an adult ram, because he will certainly start to attack you by that time. If it's a ewe it won't be a problem, ewes never grow to be aggressive, but rams do.

        The lamb will start actually eating some grass around the age of two weeks. That doesn't mean he doesn't need milk anymore. A lamb needs milk until he's about 2,5 or 3 months old.

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        DandelionsElise 2 years ago

        Hi! I'm VERY new at "farming." Right now a neighbor who breeds goats and sheep gave me a lamb. I'm assuming he's about a week old or less. I'm not sure and neither was my neighbor. He had told me that he noticed for a few days the mother wasn't letting him nurse. He told me if he couldn't get anyone to take him that he'd die. He says he didn't have the time to care for him. I've had him since 2/6/16. So far so good it looks like. He drinks about 8oz every 4hrs. I take him to my little ranch every afternoon to run around with the dogs and pigs. I have noticed he has tried to eat the grass a little. Am I doing ok with him so far? Also......when I first got him he had black tar like stool, then turned into yellow semi solid stool, now he's having yellow pudding like stool. Is this normal and when can I expect normal stool?

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        Titia Geertman 2 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @Amy, if the mom is accepting the lamb and the lamb seems happy and joyful and is not bleating all the time, then I think it's getting enough milk from the ewe. A lamb that's hungry will bleat a lot and will not hup around, but will stay in a corner. Some ewes don't get a big utter, specially not when it's the first time. How come you lost the other one? Wasn't the mom accepting both lambs? Keep an eye on this one and if you think it's not getting enough milk, you can give it an extra bottle. Normally the mom wouldn't mind.

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        Amy 2 years ago

        I have a Momma that delivered two babies two days ago... We lost one thru the first night but the other is up and walking around. He is trying to nurse but the mother seems to be producing very little milk. Should I bottle feed him? Will she continue to let him nurse if I bottle feed him?

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        Titia Geertman 2 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Dee, sorry for my late answer, I wasn't here for a few days.

        If the lamb acts normal and is playful and is taking his milk, than there's nothing to worry about. A sick lamb doesn't do all those things. The yellow poop doesn't keep being sticky either, so it might well be that he's pooping but that you don't see it. However if the lamb has a lot of sticky poop which is still on his bottom, you should remove that with warm water, because it will get hard as a rock and might 'glue' his tail to his behind and then it's very difficult for him to get his poop out.

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        Dee 2 years ago

        We 7 day old orphaned lamb, he is great! we are feeding replacement milk and he has had those yellow sticky poops the last one was Tuesday morning and he has not pooped since. He is not bloated and playful. When should I be worried and what do I do? This is our first time with this type of baby. Also much do I feed at a time?

        Thank you

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        AnonymousC831 3 years ago from Kentucky

        Great lens, never knew so much about sheep. They look so sweet and cute, you make me wanna run out and buy one...:-)

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        Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

        I so appreciate your work with the animals. We love watching them when they are young, but they take a lot of effort to keep a good flock. Your articles on the lambs are so exiting and informative. I enjoy reading them each season.

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        Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @Erin Mellor: I know, his happens very often. Lambs are cute, but I've learned to keep looking at them as animals. It's much easier is my opinion to let it be sheep with the sheep.

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        Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

        I've often seen children with abandoned an lamb, bottle feeding them, carrying them around and playing with them. Whilst it's cute and I'm sure it teaches the child a lot about responsibility, I've often wondered how that works out for the lamb when it's old enough to feed itself. I guess based on your experience, it's not easy.

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        Liz Mackay 5 years ago from United Kingdom

        Lovely lens. I've always lived in the country but have not often been involved with lambs.

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: I have no idea, I'm not a vetenarian.

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        microfarmproject 5 years ago

        Thank you so much for the info!

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        VineetBhandari 5 years ago

        Great pics & informative lens

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        we have a three day old lamb that has lost it's bleat, any ideas?

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        Tamara14 5 years ago

        Should have visited ages ago, sorry :) Every single photo shows so perfectly what a nature and animal lover you are. Just great.

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        katiecolette 5 years ago

        My mother-in-law raises sheep. She has a couple pregnant females and when the little ones come, she has her hands full! Baby lambs are a joy :)

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        Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

        This is really comprehensive! I'm very impressed... you have so much experience taking care of sheep and their lambs. I love your stories, like the one about the lamb who thought you were her mother. Cute... but I do understand why you decided to sell her.

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        Nightcat 5 years ago

        You are like 1313, congrats on a great lens! Blessed! :)

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        Tony Bonura 5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

        I have always wanted to raise a couple of lambs, but never had the room to do it properly. Oh well, if wishes were horses...


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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: Don't take the lamb away from the mom when she's still feeding it. First feces should be colored black then turn to bright yellow and is very sticky.

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        Thanks for your help

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        Will putting the lamb under a red light help??

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: In that case you should see a vet, because there's something seriously wrong with the lamb.

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        Hi your lens was very helpful!! I have a 4 days old lamb that is still with the mother ewe but today I know tised that the lamb wasn't pass feces and has got swolen up!!do you know how to get the lamb to pass?

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        Takkhis 5 years ago

        What a great lens! Good job! Blessed.

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: Hi Chayma, I find it hard to believe that Lola was 2 days old when you got her, because lambs that young won't eat grass at all yet. Lambs start to eat a bit of grass when they are about 2 weeks old, but they certainly need their milk for at least another 2 months. Most of the time they have to get used to the taste of the milk and you have to keep trying, or they will die eventually. Little bits many times. Let them go hungry for a few hours and then give the milk. I'm sure they will take it then. But if they haven't had the colostrum within 24 hours after birth, they might die anyway, because they won't have resistance against diseases. Good luck.

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        I have 2 baby lambs

        One lambs is about 4 days old and another one is 5 days old the younger one is called coco and the elder one is Lola, coco hardly drinks it milk but when it was 1 and 2 days old it did, when we got Lola she was about 2 days old she would never drink the milk even on the first day it will just eat grass and drink a bit of water and it lives to eat leaves but I would not drink the milk at all and even coco, coco would just drink a bit and we got the milk formula for Sheeps and lambs please help

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        Such a cute and happy lens thanks

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @Lady Lorelei: Thank you Ladymermaid, can you now tell that to the world? LOL just kidding.

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        AgingSoul 5 years ago

        Very caring lens! Well Done

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        Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

        The young lambs are so very gorgeous. The wealth of information on lambs and ewes that you have to share is amazing. You are a rock star girl.

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: I'm so sorry to be late with my answer. I hope your lamb survived, though I have my doubts reading your story. You can always wash lambs with warm water and any animal shampoo will do. An 8 week old lamb should eat grass or when it's winter it should get some sheep mix.

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: I'm sorry to be late with my answer. Your lamb sees you as his/her mom and will go where you go, just as it would with his birth mom. Weaning a lamb takes time and yes, it will cry for at least some days. You have to go through that. Better is to put the lamb with the other sheep. That's why I never raise a lamb all by itself, I always keep it in a 'flock' of at least three sheep, so it won't focus on me too much (only when it's feeding time).

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        Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @anonymous: Never ever give a lamb fresh milk or powder milk for babies, it will make the lamb sick and it will die. You have to find a store that sells special powder milk for sheep.

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        thank you so much for that knowledge i just purchase a two month lamb a day ago and i want to make it healthy . but when i give him milk that milk is not digest by him and is cause (motion) maybe the milk quality was bad. just i want to know what kind of milk are good for him.. powder milk or real one ? and whom milk

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        hello i rent a farm house and the owner has a very stunted fragile 8 weak old lamb left in the paddock, it was struggling so i asked to adopt it he said yes so i picked it up and carried it home its in my chook run at the moment, its had a few sips of water which is good as it could,nt walk all the way in the big paddock to the water i know ill need to suppliment its feed and the owner says it should be past the milk stage so any advice on what to get would be welcome, also it really stinks from laying in poop how can i safely wash it to clean it up a im a novice to lambs but ive raised lots of newborn kittens and puppies..

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        anonymous 5 years ago

        Hi there, im raising an orphan however i have kept him inside as it has been freezing outside, but now he wont go outside without me, or infact anywhere, as cute as he is i no he needs to start weaning and im not sure what to do. ive tried to leave him in our pen but he cried for an hour straight til i went out there. any suggestions?

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        Rural Farming 5 years ago

        Very cool lens, I have a few sheep I am raising myself.

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        kburns421 lm 5 years ago

        Wow I learned a lot just now! You have a lot of knowledge about lambs. I got to hold a baby lamb once when I was in elementary or middle school. I notice you said people shouldn't hold a newborn lamb though, so I hope the lamb wasn't too young when I held it. Anyway, great lens!

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        clayva 5 years ago

        What an excellent bit of information! We are considering sheep, this really helps, very informative. Thanks.

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        Rose Jones 6 years ago

        My favorite type of lens: based on personal experience. Angel Blessed for helping others!

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        hysongdesigns 6 years ago

        Really interesting information. I haven't raised sheep yet, but have had milch goats before and plan to eventually get sheep. For the most part care and feeding are quite similar, tho you can't feed goats copper, it will make them quite ill.

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        AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

        Well written and very informative lens. You obviously are an expert in your field of breeding lambs.

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        ellagis 6 years ago

        I really loved reading your lens, it was better than a well-built novel... with suspance, changes of framework and, of course, the thing I love most... the "happy ending"!!! ;)

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        imolaK 6 years ago

        Congratulation for this wonderful and very informative lens. Blessed by an Angel!

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        blanckj 6 years ago

        What a cute lens. Great information and thanks for sharing. I used to work at a horse farm and got to witness a few foals being born over the years. What an awesome experience. Keep up the great work.

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        Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        @Virginia Allain: Thank you vallain, you are the 300th high-level squid who liked one of my lenses, resulting in 50 points.

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        Karnel 6 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

        What an awesome topic, I remember back in the day when I had to help with the delivery of the lambs every year, my in laws had a sheep ranch with over 1000 or more...Now they raise cows instead...Tons of information thanks for sharing...

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        DuaneJ 6 years ago

        cute animals...informative lens..

      • Virginia Allain profile image

        Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

        You are very thorough in your topic and of course, your personal photos of lambs are wonderful!

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        BuckHawkcenter 6 years ago

        What a great job you did for the Jenga challenge! Definitely kudos to you for caring for those babies. We are kindred spirits and this Angel sends Blessings for a job well done!

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        miaponzo 6 years ago

        Baaaaaa.. ggreat sheepy lens!