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The Best Way to Take Care of a Rejected Lamb

Titia has been raising sheep for over 30 years. Her articles often focus on animal care.

How to take care of a rejected lamb

How to take care of a rejected lamb

Taking Care of Newborn Lambs

I have bred sheep for over 30 years. I raise a very old and rare Dutch variety called Drenthe Heath Sheep, or Drents Heideschaap in Dutch. This breed still stands very close to nature and natural behavior. The ewes take very good care of their own lambs. Yet 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 ewe rejects her lamb 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," but "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. Like a puppy is the baby of a dog and a kitten is the baby of a cat.

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. The lamb and the ewe have their own specific noise or voice. 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 in their horns and swing it in the air.

Within a few hours, 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 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 maternal instinct. It sometimes happens and when it happens the ewe can be very, very nasty to her lambs. She won't have them near her. In such a case I won't breed with her again.
  • Delivery is causing the ewe a lot of pain. A young ewe often connects birth pain with the lamb and doesn't want it near her afterwards. I had this happen once. The young ewe acted very rude towards her lamb and even took it on her horns. I decided to not breed again with this ewe.
  • The ewe is too young. If the ewe is too young, she might not know yet what to do with a lamb. This can happen when breeding with ewes in the same year they have been born. The Drenthe Heath Sheep mature very slow, like the animals in the wild. 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. To avoid hurting mom's teats while drinking, the lamb's teeth are covered with a soft layer of skin. Sometimes this skin does not cover all the teeth and then it hurts while the lamb sucks the teat.
  • The ewe can be sick. Sometimes ewes can suffer from different things. Like inflammation of the udder or they have a bad udder. It also happens that 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 got 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 given birth quite close to the fence. The neighbor's dog came running and barking. The ewe was so scared that she didn't dare come close to her lamb anymore.
Drenthe Heath Sheep Lamb

Drenthe Heath Sheep Lamb

Sometimes Ewes Steal Lambs From Other Ewes

If you breed lambs, you may encounter this strange situation. Here is what happened on my farm. This story could help to 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 very loud, and discovered the "mom" didn't even had an udder yet. I took both ewe and lamb home and started to bottle-feed the lamb (artificial colostrum first).

Two months later I was doing my daily inspection tour when I discovered a tiny little lamb in the grass. I thought, 'That can not be, all the ewes have given birth.' Then this same ewe came to the lamb, and I saw that she had a big, swollen udder. Then I realized that the lamb I was still bottle feeding was not her own at all. That she had stolen this lamb from a young ewe who gave birth to twins that night.

I had noticed that this young ewe was very restless and nervous. I paid no further attention to it because this often happens with ewes giving birth for the first time.

A year later this ewe stole one of the 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.

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Sick Ewe and Triplet Lambs on the Bottle

A Story of Triplet Rejected Lambs

In 2015 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 quickly and very well, 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. What I discovered was that this ewe 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 ewes who carry triplets, don't have much space in their belly. The lambs take all the space and are pressing against all organs. The stomach can't contain a lot of the necessary food anymore. In fact, this ewe had been 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. Giving her extra nutritious food and a few vitamin B12 shots helped her to recover again.

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

A lamb and its mother.

A lamb and its mother.

Triplet lambs.

Triplet lambs.

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

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) touching her lamb. Yet she might object to strangers who have a scent she doesn't recognize. 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."

Give the Lamb Colostrum Within 24 Hours of Birth

Lambs must drink a certain amount of colostrum within 24 hours after birth. If they don't, they will be vulnerable to diseases and won't survive.

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. To be on the safe side, a breeder should have at least 2 packs on hand when the lambing season starts. Ewes often give birth at night. If you don't have colostrum, another possibility is the following recipe.

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

You can feed the colostrum if the expiring date has passed not too long ago. You can't feed it anymore if it's from last year though. It could well be that the working elements don't work anymore and then the lamb may die. Yet in case of a real emergency, it's better than nothing.

Bottle-feeding a lamb.

Bottle-feeding a lamb.

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 succeed 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 very difficult. There are several methods you can try. 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 Methods 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". You use them on both lambs, the rejected and not rejected one to deceive the mom. This has never worked for me though.

Sometimes you might get lucky when a ewe has overwhelming maternal instincts. She might react very strongly to the sound of a distressed, rejected lamb. This happens sometimes with ewes who had lambs before and it happened only once o one of mine at the right time. The ewe adopted a rejected lamb at the moment she was in labor with her own lambs. I was so happy; I could have kissed her for taking the upcoming bottle-feeding load off my shoulders.

Ewe with adopted lamb

Ewe with adopted lamb

If You Have to Bottle-Feed the Lamb

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. It sure is not good 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 have a graduation scale printed on them, so you know exactly the amount each lamb is drinking.

Most of the time you don't need to feed a healthy lamb during the 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.

Lamb 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.

Feeding After the First Week

  • After the first two weeks, you reduce the feedings to every three hours. Don't forget to increase the amount of milk too..
  • In the second month, the lambs will increase their portions but drink less often. The same way human babies do. Follow the instructions on the powder milk package and be a bit creative. If a lamb keeps bleating all the time, 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. They put it in a small box under a hanging heating lamp. I never do that, because then the lamb gets isolated. When the lamb only sees humans who feed him, there's a possibility that the lamb forgets it's a sheep. The lamb 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 very cute to see. After two months I brought it back to the meadow. I have never seen a lamb running so fast away from the other sheep, bleating and screaming. They were aliens to her and they scared the hell out of her.

She ran to people passing by the meadow, screaming her lungs out. She followed them to the end of the meadow. It took her several weeks to learn how to be a sheep again. Yet she never stopped seeing me as her mom. Every time I stepped into the meadow she would get under my feet. In the end, I had to sell her because I kept falling over 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

Using Powdered Milk

There is 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.

Shops that sell farm animal food supplies will have this milk replacer available. Buy big bags right away because you will need more than one until the end of bottle-feeding.

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

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. 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. Farm supply stores will sell special lamb 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. 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.

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 lamb starts to nibble on grass or hay. When they grow older you will notice that they start chewing their cut too, but they still need their milk.

Ewes feeding their lamb(s) get less and less patient when the lamb(s) want to drink. They too decrease their feeding times 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.

Be aware that some sheep breeds need copper in their minerals and some breeds don't. For most sheep breeds, developped for meat production, copper is poison. For most primeval breeds copper is essential to survive. If they don't get enough copper the sheep will get sick and can 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. They won't overeat themselves, they only take what they need. Some years they don't empty one bucket, other years they can't get enough and eat three of them. One never can tell.

Make sure to inquire when you buy sheep if the breed needs copper or not.

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 many lambs to drink from these feeders. It takes some time, because some lambs are smart and some are not or are very stubborn.

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

In 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.

multi-teat milk bars

multi-teat milk bars

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.

Feeding Supplemental Mix

Sheep mix is supplemental food for pregnant ewes. 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 helps the lambs to prepare for winter. Lambs born in late summer especially benefit from sheep mix. 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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: We have a baby lamb that we were given and he doesn't have any other company but us. No other lambs. I think he is lonely and won't stop crying. What do I do? How do I calm him?

Answer: When someone gives you a rejected lamb, always check if it has been given colostrum within 24 hours of its birth. If it has not have colostrum, it's a lost case and the lamb will die eventually. When you raise a rejected lamb, you must keep in mind that a sheep is a gregarious animal. Taken away from the herd will make it nervous and it will start to see the people who care for him/her as 'his own' sort. So in other words: you are the members of his herd. Raising a lamb is a lot of work for at least three months and the problem is that it will get so attached to you that it will be scared to death if it's been put back to other sheep. It will not know it's a sheep. It will take weeks/months before he/she's back to normal again.

Besides that, if it's a ram lamb, you will encounter another problem when this lamb will grow into adulthood. Rams are quite different from ewes as it comes to natural behaviour. He will start to defend 'his' territory and he will turn against you at one time or other. That's something to seriously think about.

What you should do in the above described case is play with the lamb, give him attention, walk around the garden or meadow if you have one. The lamb will follow you just like he would follow his mom. Give him his milk reguarly. Something that can help is puting a ticking clock under a cushion of under straw in his quarters, it might give him a sense of the ticking heart of his mom in the womb.

Question: I have a 3-day old bottle lamb that's not pooping on her own. I have given 3 enemas which get out hard cold poop but she doesn’t seem to pass any by herself. She is running around and wants the bottle but how can I get her going herself again?

Answer: In this case my advice is to contact a vetenarion to see what's wrong with the lamb.

Question: How much penicillin should I give a 1 week and 3 days baby lamb?

Answer: Why on earth would you want to give a lamb penicillin? If the lamb is sick, take it to a vet. Never mess around unauthorized with medicins.

Question: My newborn orphan lamb's poop is light yellow, but running, not sticky. Is that normal?

Answer: If the first yellow poop of a lamb is running, I would watch it closely for a day. Make sure your powder milk is the right mixture of powder and water. If it keeps running every time then contact a vet. Diarrhea is not good for a young lamb, it will become dehydrated and then die.

Question: Should a rejected lamb poop after 48 hours?

Answer: A lamb should poop within 24 hours after having been drinking colostrum. The first poop is black, tar like thick poop. After that the poop is quite bright yellow colored. If a lamb is not pooping at all, make sure to check if the lamb does have an anus. It happens sometimes that lambs are born without an anus and such a lamb will die within a few days because it can't poop.

Question: You mentioned after the rejected lamb turns 2 weeks old you leave her with the herd. Is this overnight? We have a 2 week old lamb that does not like the cage we've had it in. It's fine when we let it out of the cage and very happy in the pasture playing with its new found friends (lambs). I'm worried the other over protecting ewes will hurt our ewe lamb overnight. Thoughts? suggestions?

Answer: Best is to leave the lamb with the herd, even during the night. That way she learns the ropes of how to be and act like a sheep. No need to be worried about the other ewes, the lamb will quickly learn to avoid confrontation and she finds shelter with the other lambs. Separating the lamb from the herd every night is very stressful for the lamb.

Question: What sort of home does a 3 week old lamb need. E.g. lots of hay, a heat lamp?

Answer: A 3 week old lamb needs a rather small but safe place inside the barn if he's alone. It's february now and still cold outside (at least if you're not living in Australia) and yes a heat lamp is a must, lots of straw or hay on the floor and lots of warm milk to fill his belly.

Question: Can a lamb be rejected because of a birth defect?

Answer: Yes, a lamb can be rejected because of a birth defect. Such a lamb won't act the way a healthy lamb would and therefore the mom will reject it. Quite often it appears later on that the ewe had it right and that the lamb had been growing into a weak adult.

Question: How long do sheep feed milk to their lamb(s)?

Answer: Ewes will feed their lambs milk for several months. A lamb should drink mom's milk for at least two months, before they can be separated, but better is to let the lambs drink milk up to three or four months. It will help them to grow into healthy sheep.

Question: How often do lambs sleep?

Answer: I never checked exactly how often lambs sleep, but in the beginning they sleep a lot and eat a lot.

Question: I was given a baby lamb that was a triplet. The mother had mastitis and the baby was given colostrum. On day six, the baby drank 2oz at 10 am then would not take the bottle. It would drink water from a bowl only. Day seven I force fed it 2oz. The baby has urinated and pooped semi-hard pellets. Today I force fed 2oz. Her breathing seems a little raspy, and this morning I could hear something like congestion. Should I keep force feeding? Should I administer antibiotics?

Answer: When things happen as described you should always consult a vet as soon as possible. Young lambs are fragile and don't have much reserves.

Question: Can you get an ewe to take onto her lamb after she rejects it?

Answer: When a ewe rejects her lamb, she does that for a reason. However, the reason why she does it, is not always clear to us humans. Most of the time it's not possible to persuade the ewe to accept the lamb after she has rejected it. Sometimes it helps to tie up the ewe so she can't see the lamb, but as soon as she starts kicking it with her rear legs, you can forget it.

Question: How much time does it take for a newborn lamb to stand up?

Answer: Right after birth a lamb will try to stand up. It will fall over several times, but in most cases it doesn't take too long before it really stands and starts looking for the mom's utter to drink milk. When a newborn lamb doesn't try to stand up and stays down for more than one hour then there's something wrong and you need to call a vet.

© 2011 Titia Geertman

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

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on August 02, 2020:

#Debbie: I don't know if you've kept the lamb away from the other sheep while bottle feeding him. If so than you have to give him time to adjust. You say that he's eating and drinking well, so to me there seem to be no problems at all. Does he has acces to minerals?

Debbie on August 02, 2020:

A, twin tup lamb rejected by mother was very weak did get colostrun. Bottle of fed until 12 weeks. The seems, to be failing to thrive since weaning had scours recently but clear now that the no bacterial problems as stools checked by vet. The seems, to eat plenty of grass and drinks water won't entertain the creep. Any suggestions what to give him he is quite withdrawn as well and he is now 4.5 months old

Debbie foster on July 30, 2020:


I bought 4 pet sheep to keep grass down, they are quite old. Im sure 3 of them are pregnant and not just fat? Two weeks ago a lamb was born.. sje refused to feed it..i resyrained her 3 days running to allow him ti feed. Also neighbour gave me cow collostrum. Which he took. He was about 3 days old when we came home from abroad. Neighbour said he was feeding ok when born..but im not so sure as she kicked ti stop him everytime.. we had vet she didnt have mastitis, but had antibiotics fir temp. We dont handle him only feed him..she is kind to him and a mum except for feeding him..sje watches him come over for a feed then greets hin back..the oldest one is like a grandma to him and often they are together.. i think the orher 3 are pregnant..tummies are low..the old one has muscle wastage over loin but huge tummy...i suppose ive answered my own question? We are in france.. so just a waiting game to see if they do deliver in the future.... thank you for your blog very goid reading x

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on January 11, 2020:

#Argale: I need some more information. How can you not be sure about their age? Didn't you ask the person you bought them from? Are you still bottle feed them? What gender do they have, boys or girls. I'll bet they are boys, because those the breeder wants to get rid of first. What breed are they? There's a great diference in growth between different breeds. Lots of questions. You could also send me an email by clicking the 'contact' button under my name.

Argale on January 10, 2020:


I bought 3 little lambs, not sure about their age but they are very friendly with me and my kids,

my question is, will these three lambs grow and reach their genetically size or they might be a bit smaller then lambs who drink milk from their mothers ?

because I noticed their size didn't grow like other lambs.

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on November 18, 2019:

#Rita Baptista. Good thing you took care of this abandoned lamb. And yes, he will see you as his mom because you fed him or are still feeding him. The reason that he doesn't show interest in the ewes is that he doesn't know yet that he's a sheep and not a human. For him sheep are strange creatures. He needs to learn to become a sheep again and that can only be done when he doesn't need to be bottle fed anymore and is away from you for a longer perod of time. So when it's time to stop the bottle feeding, it's time to move them elsewhere. But keep in mind that he is a ram and the others are ewes and if you don't want new lambs, you need to get him neutered. Male lambs can impregnate ewes when they're 4 months old.

Rita Baptista on November 18, 2019:

We found an abandon Lamb which will become a Ram in the middle of Hill end Road, he looked around 3-5 days old so we picked him up and took him home. He get vet checked and vaccinated. Because he was raised with humans he thinks I'm his mum as I bottle feed him and he would sleep with me and play with me. Now he's 10 weeks old and we feel that its time to be with other Sheep So we bought 2 ewes but he shows no interest in them at all and crys for me. We eventually need to take him and the2 ewes up at our farm in Mudgee but I'm affraid the little Ram l will feel lost without me, We go up to our farm every fortnight.

What should I do to get him to enjoy other sheeps Company.

Please Help.


Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on May 08, 2019:

#Sarah, never overfeed a lamb or it will get sick. You're giving it already too much each time. 4 oz is enough but you should still feed it 5 times a day. Lambs that drink with their mom won't get more per time. Yes, lambs always want more, but enough is enough. When the lamb is about two weeks old you start with feeding it solid food like soft hay or grass or supplemental mix.

I have two bottle fed lambs at the moment, they are a month old and are getting about 7 oz 4 times a day.

Sarah on May 06, 2019:

We just got a 6 day old rejected lamb within the last couple days. She was fed colostrum at birth, and is truly large for her age. She has plenty of energy and spunk, and is pooping and peeing regularly. We are feeding her replacement milk 4-6 ounces, 4 times a day. She will sometimes only take 4, other times will eat the full 6, and today has been eating the 6 oz and still lipping at us for more, but is not bleeting for milk like she does when it is time for her next feeding. Should I ignore the lipping, and only allow her to eat the 6oz, or should I let her eat until she is finished, like the times she will only consume 4 oz? I have read that it is easy to over feed, and do not want to make her sick accidentally!

Thank you for any advice!

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on April 22, 2019:

#Kara: Seems to me you bought two sick lambs. I've never experienced bloat in my sheep. The only other animal I can think of to keep your lamb company is a bottle fed goat.

Kara on April 22, 2019:

We bought 2 baby lambs that are 5 weeks old. They were rejected by their mother at birth as they were triplets and she only would take care of 1. One of them passed away from bloat within an hour of our buying them :( The other has been quite sick from an umbillical cord infection but the vet took care of her and she is doing a lot better. She seems really lonely so we are wanting to get another lamb for company but there are none bottle fed available at the moment. Is there any other animals that would be good company for her?

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on March 25, 2019:

# deb adams: Do you have a goat lamb? A lamb that doesn't or can't poop would be dead within a day or two, so he must be pooping if he's 4 weeks old. Why is his tail banded and why is he alone in the stall. He was doing ok with stealing milk from the other females, that's probably the reason why he doesn't drink too much of your milk replacer. I would put him back with the other goats, he needs to eat grass too you know.

deb adams on March 24, 2019:

I have a four week old lamb, male, it has not done well drinking the replacer milk, and has not pooped - I had the vet out twice - she thought he looked better today - I'm concerned about the lack of poop

He drinks about a cup of milk then he's done, his tail has been banded. he was stealing from other does because his mom had a inflamed utter

I have adult goats. He is alone in a stall with horses, alto he can't see them please HELP

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on March 17, 2019:

#Abi, you should have milked the colostrum out of the ewe and bottle feed it to the lamb. Or you could have hold the mom tight and let the lamb drink with her. Scours is not good for a young lamb, they will get dehydrated. I would take her to a vet. She might be very sensitive to all deseases, but time will learn. The scours has to be stopped as soon as possible though.

Abi on March 16, 2019:

We have a female lamb twin who was rejected by her mother, unfortunately her brother died. We bought the mum from a sheep breeder and she was less than a year and a half old.

She never got colostrum because were we live the shops wouldn't be open for two days, but we did try a home made recipe. She has scours at the moment but she bottle feeds, eats grain and runs around happily; is her lack of colostrum going to eventually hurt her?

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on December 19, 2018:

Ethan: A lamb rejecting its mom would be against all odds but technically it can happen if the lamb has been overtaken by another ewe or has been seperated from its mom for a too long time by humans.

Ethan on December 17, 2018:

Can a lamb reject its mom?

Safian on September 17, 2018:

I want to be a sheep farmer .....already bought two and one have given birth

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on June 19, 2018:

#Wenwen, it's not cruel at all to put a sick lamb down when it has little or no chance to live a normal sheep life. It is in fact the most humane thing to do. However, a breeder always has an obligation to keep whatever breed you're raising as healthy and durable as possible. I wouldn't be a good breeder if I would breed with (in my case) sheep that have hereditary flaws and then sell them to someone else. Give it away? A sheep is a gregarious animal and should therefore be kept in a flock of at least three sheep and never been kept as a single animal. That would really be cruel. A sheep that has a severe teeth flaw will eventually starve itself to death. That's cruel.

Wenwen on June 18, 2018:

Hi Titia,

I honestly don't know anything about ewes, but I think its cruel to kill a sick lamb, or put down as you call it just because you don't want to breed it with other ones. Then fine you could still raise it or give it away unless it has no chances of survival. Please please, please, please don't put the innocent lamb down. Thanks.

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on May 28, 2018:

Hi Joel, Sorry for my late answer, I was away for a few days. I'm not a vet and I think you should contact one to see what's wrong with the lamb, because what you describe is not a normal behaviour.

Joel on May 23, 2018:


I have a lamb 5 days old and is moving slow and falling down. The first few days was ok her stool even was bright yellow. But when her mother stands for she doesn't sucks. I started to bottle feed, but after feeding she lies flat on the ground. She still falls down when walking. She stands with her head down and makes no attempt to suckle even when i bottle feed her it has to be at the back of her mouth.


Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on March 15, 2018:

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.

Jo on March 15, 2018:

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

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on January 19, 2018:

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.

Retha Griner on January 19, 2018:

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?

Oluwaninshola Ifeoluwa on September 22, 2017:

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

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on June 11, 2017:

#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.

Diane on June 11, 2017:

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 Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on May 29, 2017:

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.

CornerstoneRanch on May 28, 2017:

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 Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on May 27, 2017:

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.

CornerstoneRanch on May 26, 2017:

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

Vivian on February 12, 2017:

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 Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on February 12, 2017:

#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?

Vivian on February 11, 2017:

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!

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on February 09, 2017:

#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.

Frances Toney on February 06, 2017:

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

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on February 04, 2017:

#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.

Frances Toney on February 03, 2017:

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.

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on December 01, 2016:

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.

Claudia on November 30, 2016:

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

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on June 13, 2016:

# 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.

Valerie on June 01, 2016:

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?

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on March 25, 2016:

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.

Quiltgirlkfo on March 20, 2016:

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.

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on March 04, 2016:

#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 a