Colostrum is the single most important feed lambs will consume in the first few hours of life. Colostrum offers a number of health benefits and performs three very important roles in newborn lambs.

Ensuring that newborn lambs receive adequate supplies of colostrum is critical.

Achieving adequate colostrum intake is crucial for guarding against lamb mortality and ensuring that lambs get a good start in life and hit the ground running.

The importance of colostrum:

  • It provides an easily digestible source of energy and nutrients;
  • It provides antibodies which will form the newborn lamb’s passive immune system until it has a chance to develop its own active immune system;
  • It acts as a laxative to clean out the digestive tract of the newborn lamb.

A newborn lamb requires 50ml/kg of colostrum in the first six hours of life. Therefore, a lamb weighing 5kg requires 250ml of colostrum every six hours.

Listed below are the recommended amounts of colostrum that should be fed to a newborn lamb depending on its birth weight.

In the case of a twin or triplet-bearing ewe who may have an inadequate amount of colostrum to feed her lambs, it is best practice to milk what colostrum the ewe has and divide it up equally among her lambs.

For instance, colostrum from ewes that have one lamb or that lost their lambs can be used if a ewe doesn’t have enough for her lambs – provided that it is stored correctly. Substitute colostrum should only be used as a top-up and not as an alternative to colostrum from a ewe.

Weak lambs that are unable to suckle their mother should be tube-fed colostrum. The quicker lambs get these antibodies, the better chance they have of surviving.

If you know of any local dairy farmers who might be able to supply you with some cow beastings, that could be another option.

According to Teagasc, if you plan on using colostrum from a cow, it is best practice to increase the feeding rate by 30%, as colostrum from a cow is more dilute than that of a ewe.

In the video (below), vet Maureen Devaney speaks about the benefits colostrum offers newborn lambs and also how to tube-feed a newborn lamb that may not be able to suckle.