How much colostrum does a newborn lamb need?

Ensuring that newborn lambs receive adequate supplies of colostrum is critical, according to Teagasc. Achieving adequate colostrum intake is critical to guarding against lamb mortality. It also ensures that lambs get a good start in life and hit the ground running.

In the vast majority of cases, Teagasc says, newborn lambs will manage to suckle themselves and other than making sure that the lambs have sucked the shepherd will not need to intervene.

Why is colostrum so important?

  • It provides a dense source of energy and nutrients;
  • It acts as a source of maternally-derived antibodies that provide the lambs with passive immunity;
  • It acts as a laxative to help clean the digestive tract.

The standard recommendation is that lambs receive 50ml/kg within the first six hours of life and 200m/kg within the first 24 hours of life.

Table: Colostrum feeding rates for newborn lambs

Table source: Teagasc

The birth weights in the above table are a guide to what the average might be for each birth type. Where ewes have insufficient colostrum, Teagasc says, an alternative needs to be sought.

There are a number of artificial colostrum products on the market. Cow colostrum is another alternative. However, it is recommended to mix it from a number of cows to avoid anaemia.

In addition, Teagasc says, colostrum should be supplemented at a higher rate (30% more) than recommended sheep levels.

Even when doing this, always try to ensure that each lamb receives some of its own mother’s colostrum to facilitate the transfer of passive immunity.