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Your guide to raising multiple orphan and pet lambs

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By John Smart B.V.Sc.


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Protocols for raising multiple orphan and pet lamb

7 Facilities 8

Lamb Selection

9 Feeding 9 Products



11 Feeders

12 13

Feeding milestone Ad-lib feeding


Automated lamb feeding


Feeding cow’s milk

16 Animal Health 16 Entropion


Navel infection or Joint III


Scabby mouth


Watery mouth

18 Pneumonia


Foot scald



19 Vaccinations


Abomasal bloat


Ruminal bloat


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Protocols for raising multiple orphan and pet lambs Interest in artificially rearing lambs has risen along with the increase in lamb returns and with a continuation of these prices forecast this interest is only likely to increase. Not only are farmers considering rearing the usual waifs and strays but in addition an increasing number are also taking one lamb off those ewes with triplets and rearing it artificially. This has the advantages of:

Improving lamb survival. Unless you already have loss rates from scanning to tailing of less than around 15 – 17% then there is probably room for improvement. Often loss rates can approach or even exceed 25%. To work out your lamb loss percentage divide scanning % minus lambing % by scanning % and multiply the answer by 100. If you don’t scan for triplets the figure you get will be quite an underestimate.

As ewe fecundity increases the percentage of triplets obviously increases. Triplets invariably have a much lower survival rate than twins. Twin survival rate is usually in the range 78 – 94% whereas triplet survival is 54 – 82%.

The two lambs left on the triplet ewes do better.

If there is a good lamb rearing setup there is more of an inclination on the shepherd’s part to remove those lambs that are looking “dodgy” to the rearing facility rather than wait and see what happens – this fact alone helps improve lamb survival.

It removes the mothering-on workload.

Lastly and by no means least there is the unseen benefit – the satisfaction of knowing you are improving the welfare of newborn lambs, especially in times of storms, and hence won’t be contributing to the “unseasonal storm” pictures that seem to pop up on TV nearly every lambing season. These pictures can be flashed around the world in seconds these days and there is the distinct possibility of an overseas backlash occurring at some point in the future.

Following is information written from over 40 years’ experience as a rural veterinarian combined with best practice principles designed to help you set up a successful artificial lamb rearing enterprise. Using these guidelines, it is possible to rear a lamb on about 7kg of milk powder and 20kg of concentrate costing (in 2018) around $54 in total. There are other costs (teats, wood chips, disinfectant, commercial colostrum etc) but provided labour is available rearing lambs is certainly economic and at the same time it addresses the welfare aspects, which are only going to gain more prominence as time goes on. As far as the labour side of rearing lambs is concerned, dare I say it but women are generally better at it than men!



The same principles for the artificial rearing of calves apply to lambs – a warm, clean, dry and draught free environment is best.

Lambs should be reared in haysheds, implement sheds etc not previously used by adult sheep. Ideally avoid any contact with sheep yards and woolsheds however in practice covered yards in particular are often utilised for this purpose.

Pens can be made from straw bales, wire gates etc. Ideally pen divisions should be solid to lessen draughts and reduce contact between adjacent pens but this is not absolutely necessary. If gates are used they can be lined with windbreak cloth to lessen draughts.

Put 10 – 12 lambs per pen with 0.5 square metres of space/lamb.


Bedding – woodchips/shavings are probably best but straw or sawdust can suffice. Sawdust can be a bit dusty plus lambs can nibble on it and straw can easily become rather dirty.

Water – provide unrestricted access to clean drinking water.

Meal troughs – 2 x 1.5m of V-shaped wooden troughs/pen placed preferably 15– 20cm off the ground but they can be at ground level. Lengths of plastic spouting also make good troughs. There must be enough room for all lambs to have access especially post-weaning – a minimum of 300mm/head is needed.

Ad-lib access to straw or hay from day 1 – this can be obtained from the pen walls if the walls are made from this. Otherwise some hay or straw in a net or bundle of some sort will suffice and provides some “scratch factor” to help develop the rumen.

Drainage – usually not an issue but pens should, if possible have a sloping floor of sand or clay. Avoid any pooling of water.

Ventilation – the shed must be closed on three sides facing away from the prevailing wind. Straw bale walls provide wind and rain shelter at ground level.

Beware of all sharp objects – edges of troughs, wire, nails & plastic as lambs are very vigorous feeders. Any lamb that is dribbling should be quickly identified and treated with penicillin.

If the housing is inferior Woolovers™ can be used – this should be a last resort though. Having good facilities is important and means various health problems re much less likely to occur.


Lamb Selection

No particular selection necessary – any orphan lamb. In the case of triplets any “odd” sized lamb could be selected or for example, select a ram lamb, leaving 2 ewe lambs on the ewe. The survival rate of lambs weighing less than 3.5kg is low and these could be abandoned. Similarly those that develop navel infections and joint ill within the first week have a low survival rate.

Weak or comatose lambs should be revived by intra-abdominal injection of 10ml/kg of 20% Dextrose or by stomach tubing and placed in a lamb warmer.

It is probably safest to assume that all pet lambs have not received any colostrum so the first feed could be colostrum if this is available - a total of 15% of body weight is required in the first 24 hours so a 5kg lamb needs 750ml total given in 3 – 5 feeds of 125 – 250ml/feed. First day cow colostrum that has been frozen is also suitable or they could be given one of the commercially available colostrum powders. The most important factor with these powders is the Immunoglobulin (IgG or antibody) level with fat % a secondary consideration. 10 – 12gm of actual IgG in the first 12 – 24 hours is considered the minimum amount required. There are three colostrum powders that I am aware of in NZ in 2019:

Launchpad 18™ from Agrivantage with 18% IgG and 18% fat. At the mixing rate (150gm/lt) and feeding level recommended on the container this will provide 11gm of IgG in 12 – 24 hours.

Excel Plus™ produced by Milligans with 15% IgG and 8% fat. At the mixing rate (250gm/lt) and feeding level recommended on the container this will provide 9.5 – 11.25gm of IgG in 12 – 24 hours.

Jumpstart™ produced by Fonterra with 4.5% IgG and 24% fat. At the mixing rate (150gm/lt) and feeding level recommended on the container this will only provide 6gm of IgG in 12 – 24 hours.

Clearly Jumpstart™ provides an insufficient amount of IgG – roughly half that required. Warming/thawing frozen liquid colostrum is best done by placing the sealed container in a warm water bath and allowing it to heat through slowly.

New lambs should be put in their allocated pen immediately and taught to drink in this area. After two days lambs should be regrouped according to size and suckling ability.


Feeding Products

Lamb Milk Replacer (LMR) – In my experience the whey based LMR’s give the most consistent results. They appear to result in less digestive upsets meaning less scouring and definitely less abomasal bloat (see later section on this topic) than the whole milk powders, probably because the vegetable fats are easier to digest. They are also easier to mix and clean equipment up following their use as you don’t get that fatty “high tide” mark that occurs with whole milk replacers. As a bonus they are usually a bit cheaper than the whole milk powders. As far as I am aware the only whey based product on the market for the last few years since Denkavit Ovitop and Reliance Whey LMR went off the market has been Sprayfo Lamb Primo™ marketed by AgriVantage. Milligans from Oamaru have just brought a whey based LMR (Golamb™) onto the market for the 2019 season and Ngahiwi Farms in the North Island are apparently doing likewise. Both of these appear to have similar fat and protein specifications to Sprayfo™. There may be other whey based milk replacers that I am unaware of and new products will likely come onto the market over time. The most important specification is the fat % and the nearer to ewe milk From your vet (30% on a dry matter [DM] basis or 7% reconstituted) International award winning the better.

stomach tube

Fibre for rumen development.


Lamb Meal – should be fed from the start as it aids in rumen development meaning lambs can be weaned off milk and onto pasture sooner and with less of a check. In practice this means you feed less relatively expensive milk powder and more of the cheaper lamb meal concentrate. As far as lamb meal goes there will be products produced regionally in New Zealand, especially further north that I will be unaware of and will no doubt be quite suitable for feeding to young lambs. Here in South Otago we have used either Sgt Dan Lamb Meal™, a ground pelletised Meal feeding young lambs. palatable meal, 20% protein & a metabolisable energy (ME) of 14 that contains a coccidiostat or Moozlee™, a high quality steam flaked texture feed, 18% protein & an ME of 12.5 that also contains a coccidiostat.

These meals are very palatable and no attempt should be made to substitute alternative products unless you are certain they are of equivalent specification and palatability. Meal fed should contain NO palm kernel, copra meal or tapioca as lambs don’t like it. Provide fresh water and feed hay ad lib.

Sodium Bentonite – is a specialised clay type product found in NZ which can be added to the meal. It acts as a buffer against rumen acidosis, absorbs toxins and reduces the possibility of scours.

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Lambs need at least 10 – 15% of their bodyweight in milk daily so: Lambs <4kg 500 – 600mls/day Lambs 4kg 600mls/day Lambs >5kg 800mls/day

Mixing rate: 200gm/litre

Temperature: Very warm 35 - 40oC

Daily Schedule: Day 1: 125mls 4 – 5 x daily (for a 4kg lamb) Day 2 – 4: 250mls 3 x daily Day 5 – 11: 300mls 3 x daily Day 12 – 21: 400mls 2 x daily Day 22 – 30: 600 – 800mls once a day – see later section on abomasal bloat.


Lambs should be bottle-fed individually initially. They learn to suckle very quickly (no more than two days). They can then be bottle fed in rack systems or multiple fed via a multiple feeder. Start on soft teats and once feeding well move to hard teats.

Rack feeders – There are a number of commercially produced compartmentalised rack feeders available (or you can make your own as in the photo below) where each lamb gets access only to its allocated amount of milk. Best fed in batches of 10 – 12 for good observation of suckling speed and milk intake.

Multi feeders – With multi feeders all lambs drinking get access to the reservoir of milk so these are more suitable for use after a week of age. Watch for slow and fast drinkers – rearrange into even drinking groups. Teats need to be at 200mm centres for lambs above 5 – 8kg and 40 – 45cm above the ground. The design should be such that “greedy” lambs cannot push other lambs off the teat.

Example of a rack feeder

Example of a multi feeder


Feeding Milestones

The Sgt Dan Lamb Meal™ (or your equivalent regional product) should be available from day 1. Keep it fresh and topped up twice a day. Some lambs appear to get on to certain meals quicker than others. Regardless, the more palatable the meal is to begin with the better. You can take advantage of the lamb’s natural tendency to want to continue feeding after their bottle is finished by putting small amounts of meal into their mouths – this gets some of them onto meal quite quickly.

Lambs to be placed outside with access to good quality grass (1200 – 1800kg DM/ha, 4 – 6” long) when they are consuming 100gm of meal/ lamb/day – usually at about 2½ - 3 weeks of age. The provision of suitable pasture in conveniently located paddocks needs planned well ahead.

When on pasture 3 or 4 groups of lambs can be mixed into groups of 30 - 50 depending on the teat feeding system available.

The best weaning criteria is meal consumption. Lambs can be weaned off milk when they are consuming 200gm of meal/day or when they weigh 10 – 12kg. This is usually between 4 – 5 weeks of age.

After weaning the concentrate consumption will likely increase to around 400gm/day. Meal should be available ad lib and must be continued to be fed in conjunction with grass at the rate of 400 – 700gm/day until 20kg of weight at 8 – 10 weeks. Lambs can find these meals very palatable and lamb intakes may need restricted by around week 10 to 700gm/day.

Lambs to be rotated around paddocks of high quality pasture (not less than 1600kg DM/ha) to encourage grass intake.

The above regime should result in about 5 - 7kg of milk replacer & 20kg of concentrate being fed/lamb.

Older lambs being fed out on pasture.


Ad lib feeding

Ad-Lib Feeding Where lambs are being ad lib fed:

Initially feed the lambs a restricted amount of milk (750mls/day) as above in three feeds to identify any lambs not drinking well, relocate if necessary. When all lambs in the group are drinking well introduce them to the bulk ad-lib feeder.

One ad-lib feeder per 60 lambs. The feeder should have one teat/5 lambs with the teats at least 8cm apart and 40 - 45cm above the ground.

Milk should be fed cold to restrict milk intake and the container should not be empty for longer than two hours. The daily milk intake is likely to be around 1 - 1.8litres/day.

Advantages over more manual feeding systems include:

Reduced time spent in the lamb rearing shed.

It more closely mimics what happens in nature as lambs feed little and often. This should result in less animal health issues, especially with what has been the main problem with artificially reared lambs â&#x20AC;&#x201C; that is abomasal bloat.

Disadvantages include:

The capital cost of the feeder. A standard ad-lib lamb feeder is around $7000 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 7500 (in 2019).

It results in more milk powder being consumed than with a manual system hence increasing the costs.


Automated Lamb Feeding

Technology has developed to the extent that there are now automated feeders which can read the EID tag of lambs (or calves) and be programmed to track their individual intakes and regulate the amount of milk they get per feed and the total amount per day. Also, while not best practice, if there was to be a change of feed type, for example a change of milk powders, the machine can be programmed to gradually phase out the one component while gradually increasing the proportion of the other thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of any digestive upsets.

Advantages over more manual feeding systems are similar to those for ad- lib feeders in that they save considerably on time spent in the shed. They also more closely mimic what happens in nature, only with more control than an ab-lib system.

Disadvantages include:

The capital cost of the feeder. A fully automated “robotic” feeder is currently $45,000 – 50,000 so at present somewhat unrealistic for all but the biggest rearing enterprises – unfortunately!

It will likely result in slightly more milk powder being consumed than with a manual system but not as much as with an ad-lib system.

Feeding Cow’s Milk

The formulation of ewe’s milk is 30% fat, 23% protein and 27% lactose on a DM basis with a concentration of 200gm/litre in the liquid form. In comparison cow’s milk has 26% fat, 26% protein and 40 – 45% lactose on a DM basis with a concentration of 125gms/litre in the liquid form. Clearly cow’s milk is lower in fat and has excessive amounts of lactose. Total DM and energy is also much lower so litre for litre lambs will never grow as well on cow’s milk as they will on ewe milk or LMR’s. NB: High levels of lactose is most likely associated with an increased susceptibility to abomasal bloat.

Cow’s milk can be modified to more closely resemble that of ewes’ milk by three methods: Add cream at the rate of 30gm/litre – expensive!

Fortify with a lamb milk replacer to lift the concentration. This can be done by adding 75gm of replacer/litre or 7.5kg/100litres of cow’s milk. The actual brand of replacer is probably not too critical but again the whey based powder with its more digestible fat would, on paper anyway, be best.

Modify the lactose level by yoghurtising the milk. The Lactobacillus bacteria will use the lactose to make the yoghurt. This product will be thicker than milk and may be harder to go through the teats. Works very well in calves. See below for instructions to yoghurtise the milk.


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Animal Health

If lambs are less than 24 hours old it is, as stated above, best to assume they have had no colostrum. For colostrum to be effective as far as disease prevention goes, lambs must receive it preferably by <12 hours of age and certainly by no later than 24 hours of age. In order of preference give:

Actual ewe colostrum. Commercial colostrum powders – contains antibodies from ewe or cow colostrum. Stored cow colostrum – the quality can be variable. Use first day colostrum.

On arrival each lamb should be:

Weighed and identified. If tagged use an imprinted number – tag pen numbers do not last well in the suckling environment.

Navel sprayed with iodine taking particular care to ensure a drop forms on the end of the navel as this is where bacteria can get in – they don’t bore through the side of the cord. This should be done the first time the lamb is handled – i.e. in the paddock.

Treat any swollen navels immediately with procaine penicillin at the rate of 1ml daily for five days.

A prophylactic (preventative) dose of 1 ml of penicillin can be given however, with the increasing emphasis on minimising the development of antibiotic resistance, ideally this should not be done unless the number of infections occurring is considerable and all other options for reducing the incidence have been tried.

Check: Eyes for turned in eyelids (Entropion). Joints for joint ill (navel infections). Sheds should be disinfected with a broad spectrum disinfectant (Envirosan™, Sterigene™ Virkon™, Vetsan™) prior to commencement and then weekly thereafter. Also feeders and troughs should be regularly sprayed with disinfectant.

Entropion – An inherited condition common in many breeds of sheep. One or both of the lower eyelids is turned in resulting in eye(s) that are watering and become cloudy, not unlike pinkeye in appearance. In severe cases the eyeball can rupture so treatment is desirable.

Treatment - Pull down on the offending eyelid(s) to unroll it and apply some Terramycin powder. If eyelids invert again repeat the unrolling and you can then pinch the offending lower eyelid between your thumb and 16 

finger. This causes, after half an hour or so some swelling which helps the eyelid to stay “unrolled”. Alternatively inject 0.5mls of saline or penicillin subcutaneously into the area below the lower eyelid.

Navel Infection or Joint Ill – Bacteria enter the bloodstream via the fresh navel and commonly end up in joints causing an infective arthritis (joint ill) or in the liver and lungs causing internal abscesses. In the case of joint ill lambs will be lame and one or more joints may be swollen. In cases of liver and/ or lung abscesses, which incidentally on most farms are the commonest cause of Liver and lung abscesses resulting from an earlier navel infection. lamb deaths between about six days and six weeks of age, the lamb will have a temperature and be noticeably sick.

Treatment – 2 - 3mls of penicillin (e.g. Ovipen™) and repeat at least twice at 48 hour intervals. Infections of navel origin are very common in the first two weeks. Due to a lack of blood supply to the middle of joints, joint ill will likely require a longer treatment course.

Scabby Mouth – If and only if scabby mouth is endemic on the farm, vaccinate all lambs at the time of entry into the shed as pet lambs’ habit of bunting up against the bottle (or anything else they think might provide milk) damages the skin around the lips and nose which allows easy entry of the virus if it is present at a much earlier age than normally occurs on lambs reared on their mothers.

Watery Mouth – This is caused by an oral infection of E. coli, a bacteria commonly found in faeces and as such housed lambs would be a little more prone to getting it than lambs out on pasture although on some farms, especially those with bare dirt along shelter belts it can be quite common even in lambs on their mothers. Lambs ingest the E. coli in the first day or two of life and the E. coli release a toxin which causes a guts ache. In response to the pain the lamb salivates excessively (the watery mouth) followed often by bloating from excessive gas production and death can occur in as little as six hours. A lack of colostrum predisposes to watery mouth. The best treatment

Early scabby mouth developing.


for Watery Mouth, because it works quickest, is an oral dose of 2mls of Spectinomycin Oral™ 50mg/ml. Watery Mouth can only occur in lambs up to three days of age – any older lambs with excess salivation probably have a developing septicaemia, most likely due to an earlier navel infection and should be treated with injectable antibiotics – oral Spectinomycin will not be effective in these older lambs.

Pneumonia – Not usually a common problem. If some cases occur the first thing to check is the flow rate of teats. A small lamb on a teat with a large orifice can lead to inhalation pneumonia which will show up as a history of “the lamb was drinking fine but now only drinks a percentage of the bottle and comes on and off the teat a lot”. Treat with antibiotics for five days – contact your local vet for a suitable antibiotic.

Foot Scald – Again not usually a common problem. It will show up as reddened inflamed skin between the hooves on one or more feet. Even quite severe cases respond well to penicillin (e.g. Ovipen™) given once at 1ml/10kg. If there are repeated cases it is likely the ground conditions are too damp and attention should be paid to this aspect.

Scours – There are, broadly speaking, two types of lamb scours – nutritional and infectious. The vast majority of cases are the former – nutritional (or osmotic) and as such are generally easily fixed.

Watery mouth.

Nutritional – Due to over feeding, cold feeding, the wrong mixing rates or dated milk powders. At the first sign of a mild scour with the lamb still bright and drinking increase the concentration of milk replacer being fed by around 25% by cutting the water down but using the same amount of milk powder. Reduce the volume fed for two or three feeds as well. This will frequently stop the scour but make sure the lamb has fresh water available and watch for constipation as this can happen quite easily. Infectious – Much less common than nutritional scours – in non-weaned lambs they will likely de due to Cryptosporidia, E. coli or Salmonella. An early diagnosis is essential. Samples need to be submitted to lab/vet clinic. For these or if the treatment for nutritional scours isn’t effective and/ or the lamb is dull or inappetant then you need to institute electrolyte therapy as would be the case with scouring calves. Remove from milk and give ad-lib electrolytes (e.g. Revive™, Enerlect™). When milk is reintroduced use the reduced volume / increased concentration approach


outlined above. In rare cases like Salmonellosis antibiotic treatment (but not with penicillin) may be needed - these must not be fed in the milk as a preventative.

In older lambs that have been recently weaned coccidiosis due to a protozoal parasite causing a nasty diarrhoea, sometimes containing blood can occasionally be an issue. Outbreaks are usually associated with a high stocking rate and moist/muddy conditions. If grass is short then due to a combination of decreased resistance and lambs being forced to graze low, thereby ingesting more coccidial oocysts, this can exacerbate the disease. There is a treatment, Toltrazuril (Baycox C™ or Catolyst™) which needs to be given promptly in an outbreak to be really effective. Prevention consists of providing clean fresh grazing (don’t wean lambs onto the same paddocks in consecutive years) and a clean water source. Ensure that the meal being fed contains a coccidiostat.

Internal parasites (worms) are unlikely to be an issue until lambs have been eating mainly or wholly pasture for at least three weeks and avoiding weaning lambs onto the same paddocks in consecutive years will, as with coccidiosis, help reduce the likelihood of premature or excessive exposure to the causative agent, in this case L3 parasite larvae.

Vaccinations – It is safest to assume there has been no colostrum intake and thus no clostridial protection will be present at tailing so give Lamb Vaccine™ at tailing. Lamb Vaccine™ vaccinates against Pulpy Kidney and provides temporary passive protection against Tetanus. The reason for using this product at tailing rather than 5 in 1 is that, given that we are assuming minimal if any colostrum intake in these lambs there is likely to be no protection passed on from their mother’s vaccination programme. The incubation period for Tetanus, (which is the main risk post tailing) is shorter than the time it takes for protection from the 5 in 1 vaccine to develop hence the need for the temporary Tetanus protection afforded by Lamb Vaccine™. Lambs can then have a standard 5 in 1 vaccination programme and be vaccinated against Clostridial diseases (Pulpy Kidney etc) with Ultravac 5 in 1™ or Multine 5 in 1™ at 6 – 10 weeks of age and again 4 – 6 weeks later.

Abomasal Bloat – This has been the biggest cause of death amongst hand reared lambs and the background reason for the occurrence of this disease is the way we artificially rear lambs. For reasons of practicality we feed orphan lambs a lot not very often whereas on the ewe they feed little and often. Lambs with abomasal bloat become acutely bloated about 1 – 2 hours after feeding (so this is the time to check on them). There is acute depression, a swollen tense abdomen, pain (colic) and death is rapid if lambs are not treated. It usually


occurs after three weeks of age while on relatively large amounts (>500mls) of milk replacer once daily and is due to the sudden gorging and uneven intake. The flooding of a large amount of milk into the intestinal tract provides an ideal substrate for Sarcina bacteria (a soil borne The end result of untreated abomasal bloat. bacterium lambs pick up from the environment) to multiply in which results in huge amounts of gas being produced (bloat) and acidification of the intestinal contents which can cause rupture of the stomach and sometimes even the abdominal wall.

Treatment – 3mls of penicillin orally ASAP. If this isn’t going to work quickly enough (i.e. if the lamb is basically on its last gasp) you will need to deflate the stomach with a needle. Put the lamb on its back and in the midline between the end of the sternum (ribcage) and the navel plunge a 16G x 1” needle straight in and hold it there applying very slight downward pressure as the stomach deflates so that the stomach doesn’t “fall off” the end of the needle and you therefore remove as much gas as possible. Afterwards inject a dose of penicillin into the muscle in the usual way (1ml/10kg). As this condition is an acute emergency you need to be well organised before hand – have penicillin, a 16G x 1” needle handy and know beforehand exactly what to do! Prevention – You will need to do one of the following: Put lambs back onto a twice-daily feeding regime until weaning. In other words feed the same total amount of milk/day but feed more frequently.

There is good evidence that the injection of iron (by reducing the inclination of lambs to eat dirt to improve their iron intake) helps prevent abomasal bloat by reducing the intake of the causative bacteria. I suggest an injection of 1½ – 2mls of Gleptosil™ (iron dextran) at 2 – 5 days of age. This could be repeated again (2mls) about 3 – 4 weeks later.

Addition of baking soda to the milk (10 – 15gms/lt) is also often effective in preventing abomasal bloat.

Another preventative method is the addition of formalin to the milk – the rate is 1ml of 10% formalin/lt of milk.

Acidification (yoghurtising) of milk or milk replacer has also been shown to be very effective. See page 21 for details.


Feeding whey based milk replacer (Sprayfo™), while it may not always totally eliminate abomasal bloat, definitely does reduce the incidence of it compared to the whole milk powder lamb replacers.

Ad-lib type feeders, especially the modern automated ones which through reading the lambs EID tag and regulating its milk intake appropriately, should eliminate most if not all abomasal bloat as lamb’s intake in any one feed is restricted as is the total for the day.

I would suggest that if an injection of Gleptosil™ works then this is the simplest (and at around 50 - 60c/dose it isn’t expensive) preventative strategy to adopt. If it doesn’t seem to be effective then you need to try one of the other methods.

Ruminal Bloat – due to acidosis from over feeding of concentrates. This will not be seen with Moozlee™ or Sgt Dan Lamb Meal™ but could occur if any attempt is made to substitute these with straight grain.

Acidifying (Yoghurtising) Milk or Milk Replacers – Yoghurt contains Lactobaccillus species (good bacteria) that help prevent most “bad” bacteria from multiplying in the gut. This “yoghurtised” milk can be introduced from about day 5 – 7 (although it can be given to lambs from two days of age) with a gradual transition from warm to cold feeding as follows:

Small Numbers of Lambs (1 – 4):

Make up double the amount of milk replacer you need in a lidded bucket of at least twice the volume of the milk in it.

Use water that is warmer than you would feed to the lambs but not as hot as a fresh cup of tea. This gets the yoghurt growing fast without the need for a heating pad.

Dump a large container of unsweetened acidophilus yoghurt into the bucket of warm milk replacer and whisk well.

Leave in the hot water cupboard for 6 – 12 hours, depending on how long it takes to thicken. The mix may vary from bubbly thick shake to crusty cream cheese sitting on top of clear liquid to thick commercial yoghurt.

When it’s time to feed the lambs, whisk it up, decant the amount you need (dilute a little with cold water if necessary or cut the lambs teats open a bit if it’s too thick) and feed away.

If you like you can give the lambs a half yoghurt/half ordinary milk replacer mix when you first introduce it but they normally go on to the yoghurt without any problems.

Make up an equal volume of milk replacer to that removed, again quite warm and whisk into the existing yoghurt mix and put back in the hot water cupboard ready for the next feed.


You may occasionally need to recharge the mixture with extra yoghurt if it gets too thin or seems not to be fermenting well.

Medium Numbers of Lambs (5 – 20):

Put 3lt of warm water in a bucket.

Add 1kg of calf milk powder and mix with an electric stick blender of at least 250 watts power.

Add 200mls of acidophilus yoghurt e.g. Ezy-Yo™ from the supermarket. Mix, then cover with a lid or sheets of newspaper.

Keep the mix warm for the next few hours. The easiest method is to place the bucket on a brewer’s mat (cost $50 for a 25 watt solid heating mat). If the air temperature is too cold the milk will take a long time to ferment. Another option is to put the bucket in an insulated box e.g. chilly-bin with something like a hot water bottle as a source of heat.


A good hygiene protocol in animal housing is imperative for successful rearing. It means bedding should be fresh, clean and dry with no smell of ammonia. It also means reducing the risk of infectious agents coming into contact with stock. One key element every biosecurity protocol needs to contain is an effective hygiene and disinfection agent. With the ability to control pathogens that cause infection and internal diseases like Salmonella, Rotavirus, E-coli, etc, Stalosan F is the ideal solution. Stalosan F: • Absorbs moisture and binds ammonia in animal bedding. • Helps control bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and fly larvae. • Is unique because it is not a chemical (has no ‘active ingredient’) and has prolonged efficacy, i.e. it will keep working for several days as a drying agent. • Can be safely applied while animals are present • Is applied in powder form and is safe to handle during application Pen prep in four steps: 1. Clear pens of old bedding material. 2. Spray with a strong liquid disinfectant to kill bacteria. Take care to spray rails, gates and vertical walls. 3. Cover the floor with a layer of Stalosan F (100g/m²). The layer of disinfectant underneath the bedding is an excellent preventative and will absorb moisture and ammonia that filters through the bedding. 4. Add bedding on top of the Stalosan F. Regular application (50g/m² once weekly) of Stalosan F stabilises the microflora and chemical balance in bedding, creating a naturally healthy rearing environment. Use in conjunction with a quality liquid disinfectant, alternating applications every 3-4 days. Content supplied by Agrivantage, visit for more.


The yoghurt should set within 8 – 12 hours and may have a soft crust on top with some liquid at the bottom or may resemble thick commercial yoghurt. Top up with cold water to 8lt, mix and feed directly to lambs Remove 200mls of this liquid yoghurt for use as the starter for the next batch.

Large Numbers of Lambs (>20):

For the starter either buy 2lt of acidophilus yoghurt or add 50mls of acidophilus yoghurt to 2lt of warm calf milk replacer at 40ºC and keep warm for 8 – 12 hours to set. Put 30lt of warm water (40ºC) in an 80lt plastic container. Add 10kg of milk replacer and 2lt of starter. Mix until smooth. A powerful electric stick blender, submersible pump or electric drill with a mixer attachment is useful. Put a lid or sheets of newspaper on the container and supply warmth until set (24 hours). A brewer’s mat can be used under the container as the heat source. The container could have an insulating blanket put around it. Setting of the yoghurt also depends on the room temperature. The set mixture may have a thick cheesy crust and liquid at the bottom. Add water to give a total of 80lt. Mix or sieve to remove any lumps. Remove 2lt of the liquid yoghurt to use as a starter for the next batch. The yoghurt will last up to five days in a cool place. Clean the bucket/container between batches. The lamb feeders should be kept in a cool place or in the shade. This can be used under ad-lib or set feeding regimes (such as once or twice a day) and does not add much extra expense. Following the above guidelines and not cutting (too many!) corners should hopefully mean you have a trouble-free and rewarding time rearing multiple orphan lambs. However should you experience problems, especially repeated ones with your orphan lambs please contact your local rural veterinarian who will be able to assist you in identifying and correcting any underlying issues that could be predisposing to the problem(s). The commonest (and severest) problem to date experienced by far for most people rearing orphan lambs has been abomasal bloat and thankfully this is now quite preventable. John A. Smart B.V.Sc. Senior Veterinarian, Clutha Vets P: 027 224 6444 E:



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Lamb rearing booklet 2019  

Lamb rearing booklet 2019