Why colostrum is so important for newborn lambs

Colostrum is the first feed for the newborn lamb and the key to survival. It’s a highly nutritious energy source that helps the lamb to maintain body temperature and survive.

It also contains antibodies that are vital to help protect the newborn lamb against disease. Feeding sufficient good quality colostrum immediately after birth will reduce losses from both hypothermia and disease.

It’s critical to carefully feed your in-lamb ewes in order to stimulate the production of quality colostrum and ensure lambs get the best start in life.

Remember the 3Q rule

Colostrum should be fed quickly, in sufficient quantity and be of the right quality. It should also be squeaky clean!

1. Feed colostrum quickly

Feed colostrum as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first six hours.

This is when the gut wall is most permeable, allowing for the large antibody molecules to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. It is advisable to provide small frequent feeds during the first 24 hours.

2. Feed enough colostrum

Lambs should be fed a minimum of 210ml/kg live weight within the first 24 hours. Feeding 50ml/kg live weight per feed is also advisable.

Daily intake:
  • 3kg lamb = 1.1 pints or 630ml
  • 4kg lamb = 1.5 pints or 840ml
  • 5kg lamb = 1.8 pints or 1,050ml

For lambs reared outdoors, the colostrum allowance should be increased by 15-20%.

3. Feed good quality colostrum

The quality of colostrum will determine the level of antibodies present in the colostrum. Quality is affected by:

  • Ewe condition: Body condition score 3 at tupping and vaccinate against infectious abortion and clostridial disease.
  • Ewe parity: The number of previous lambings
  • Ewe health: Healthy, well-nourished ewes are able to develop a healthy placenta, which reaches its optimum size around day 90 of pregnancy. Around this time the placenta releases hormones that stimulate the lactating cells in the udder and colostrum starts developing three-to-five weeks before lambing.

While mothers’ colostrum is preferable, if ewe colostrum is unavailable, in short supply or of poor quality, then colostrum must be fed quickly from another source.

Options include fresh or frozen colostrum from another ewe, bovine colostrum or a high quality natural alternative such as Volac’s Lamb Volostrum.

Colostrum should be fed warm (at 39°C). Stand in a bowl of warm water; do not microwave colostrum or heat it directly. Temperatures above 45°C can damage the sensitive proteins within colostrum.

Feeding an alternative colostrum

Volac Lamb Volostrum is an ideal alternative or supplement when ewe colostrum is not available or is in short supply due to multiple births, a sick ewe or a lamb being orphaned.

Volostrum is made from high-quality whey proteins that have been carefully processed to retain protein quality. It also contains a highly-digestible source of energy.


Independent trials have shown that lambs fed Volostrum were as healthy and perform equally as well as those that suckled ewes or were fed artificially on ewe colostrum.

A proven alternative to colostrum

Surplus lambs fed Volostrum went on to match the performance of those fed ewe colostrum for the first 24 hours of life, according to trial findings from University College Dublin (UCD).

Furthermore, mortality was nil.

The trial featured 30 surplus lambs from the university’s 350-ewe flock – split in to two groups.

Half the lambs were fed ewe colostrum at 50ml/kg birth weight at one, 10 and 18 hours after birth. The remainder were each fed, at the same intervals, one 50g sachet of Volac Lamb Volostrum (3 x 50g sachets over 18 hours).

All the surplus lambs were reared artificially on Lamlac ad libitum via a Ewe-2 feeder from 24 hours, and weaned at just over six weeks of age.

“The two groups of lambs recorded identical pre-weaning growth rates and nil mortality, which highlights that when ewe colostrum is in short supply (as is often the case with multiple births) triplet lambs can be successfully artificially reared and achieve high growth rates,” said UCD’s Associate Professor Tommy Boland.

lamb weight gains
Source: Dr Tommy Boland

The Irish findings mirror precisely earlier research findings from Harper Adams University, whilst over 30 farm studies have concluded that farmers were satisfied that Volostrum was very effective as a first feed for lambs.

After surplus lambs have received adequate colostrum or Volostrum they should be reared on Lamlac.

Why Volac Lamlac?

Lamlac remains the number one ewe milk replacer, simply because it keeps meeting modern sheep producers’ needs.

  • Lamlac provides concentrated milk protein, which is highly digestible to promote faster growth rates (proven in performance trials).
  • Lamlac also delivers ultra-filtrated milk protein, for fewer digestive upsets.
  • Lamlac is fully formulated and instantised, to provide all the nutrients required by the lamb in an ‘easy mix’ format – even in cold water.
  • Lamlac stays fresh for 24 hours, which means it works well in ad-lib systems.
  • Lamlac is conveniently available in 5kg, 10kg and 25kg bags.
  • Lamlac is supplied in Instant or Freeflow forms to suit all rearing systems (manual/machine).
  • Lamlac can also be fed to goat kids.

For more details on Volostrum Click here