Feed­ing lambs

Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -


One of my sheep gave birth to twins three days ago. The vet had to help get the first out as his legs were tucked back (we are new to lamb­ing) but once out he was fine and both lambs be­gan to suckle. Aside from those first few hours though I am not see­ing them feed that much and am wor­ried they aren’t get­ting enough. They are inside but in a large com­mu­nal pen.


Jack Smel­lie says: The first thing to ask is have you seen the ‘lamb stretch’? This is when a lamb gets up af­ter a sleep or rest, arches its back and does a lovely big tummy stretch. That is a re­ally good sign a lamb is fit, healthy and get­ting enough milk. Sim­i­larly, if you put your hand un­der their tummy, it should feel warm and rounded. Af­ter three days, if they weren’t get­ting enough milk, they would be look­ing hunched and poorly. I ex­pect they are ac­tu­ally fine. It may be worth you pen­ning all three on their own for a few days. Check the ewe’s teats to make sure the milk is flow­ing and they are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and clean. Also check the lambs’ mouths just to dou­ble check they are not sore or have any­thing stuck. If you feel they are empty, you can try to open their mouths and put the teats inside. A bit of honey or sugar on your fin­ger can help a lamb start to suckle plus tick­ling their bot­toms! If the ewe isn’t back­ing off the lambs should suckle quite eas­ily. If hun­gry, lambs are ‘pro­grammed’ to look for milk just as much as mum is ‘pro­grammed’ to pro­vide it. At this stage it is ‘lit­tle and of­ten’ so you may well be miss­ing when they do feed. Once you know a lamb has found the teat on its own, there re­ally is no rea­son it shouldn’t again. * With thanks to Han­nah Why­man-Naveh and Ge­orge Peto.

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