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As finished lamb prices continue to firm, artificially rearing lambs remain a viable financial option, with gross income estimated to be £82/lamb, with variable costs of £47.  Artificial rearing does not have to be labour intensive or accompanied by high levels of lamb death loss. Replacement ewes can be reared artificially and have good mothering instincts due to their genetics rather than the environment in which they have been reared.

The best rule of thumb is to remove the most different lamb, with size and gender being the determining factors.  For example, in a set of triplets, leave two females on the ewe and remove the male.  However, farmers generating replacement females will obviously leave the females on the ewe.


Colostrum should be fed as soon as possible after birth and for the first 6 hours as the gut wall is most permeable at this time.  Feed 50ml per kg of live weight per feed; for a 5kg lamb, feed 250 ml of colostrum in total.

Colostrum quality is related to the quality of feed offered in late pregnancy.  If colostrum is insufficient, extra colostrum will need to be fed.  If colostrum is not available, artificial colostrum substitute can be used.  It may be necessary to tube feed new born lambs to ensure they receive sufficient colostrum.

Milk powder

When artificially rearing lambs, it is recommended that they are fed milk replacer that has been specifically formulated for lambs.  Lambs should be fed a high fat (24%), high protein (24%) powder, made from milk products.  Ensure feeding equipment is kept clean to prevent the build-up of bloat and scour causing organisms.

Milk which finds its way into the rumen and reticulum is subjected to fermentation and may result in significant gas production resulting in pot-bellied lambs.  The abomasal capacity of a new born lamb is around 280ml for a 5kg lamb.  Therefore, frequent feeding of small volumes is more successful and will avoid over-filling the abomasum.

The most efficient way to rear 60-120 lambs artificially is by using an automatic ad lib lamb feeder followed by abrupt weaning.  Soft teats will elicit more suckling, and teats about 4cm in length elicited more sucking than shorter or longer ones.  Use of teats that do not readily elicit sucking may explain some of the difficulty in training artificially-reared lambs to suck.

Lamb creep

In order to wean lambs at an early age, it is important to offer good quality creep feed.  A coarse mix or pellet with palatable ingredients such as flaked peas and beans and maize will encourage lambs to eat hard food.    Forage, either hay or straw; and fresh water should also be provided.


The training pen should be placed closest to the milk as this will mean it has the shortest pipes which will make it easier for new lambs to suck.  Lambs should be removed from the ewes at around 48h and left for a few hours to get hungry. However, extended periods without food may cause lambs to lose their desire to suck.

Learning to suckle from an artificial teat is enhanced by untrained lambs observing already trained ones.

The training sessions should be repeated regularly every 4-6 hours until lambs are adjusted to the nipple.  Two to three sessions is usually all that is necessary.  Lambs left with the ewe for more than 2 days may require six to eight sessions before accepting the nipple.

Most lambs remain in the training pen for only 1 to 2 days before moving to the intermediate pen.


Lambs should be weaned at 5 weeks or 10kg live weight whichever is soonest, provided lambs are eating hard food.  By weaning lambs should have consumed around 13 kg of milk powder.

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