I have a two week old lamb. The mother rejected the twin lamb. The mother died and now the lamb won't drink the bottle. I am feeding her Lamlac, four times a day, but she is not feeding or sucking the bottle. She grind her teeth while I feed her. She is thriving and doesn't seem distressed but I am just concerned that it can take up to 40 minutes to get a bottle into her. I have tried slow release teats and she just does not suck at all. Advice welcomed.
I hope one of our sheep people logs in soon. They might be able to help you. One thought, is her mouth okay? Can you look inside and see if everything is normal. I wish you all the best with the poor little lamb. I sometimes have orphaned hamsters and feeding them is almost imposible. I usually have to foster. I don't think sheep do that or do they. Anyhow, I hope she makes it.
Heyy, when i got my lamb she wouldn't drink for the first 3 weeks of her life i had to force feed her, which was distressing for us both but necassary, if its the same thing its just perciverance i'm affraid and you just have to hold out until they get the hang of it, hope everythings okay!
Has she been bottle fed ever since the moment of her birth? If she suckled her mother at all, no matter for how short a time, it may just be that she's refusing the bottle in the hope of being offered the teat instead. It could also be that she is still making the adjustment from getting ewe's milk to having to make do with Lamlac instead. Typically lambs are fussy eaters and hate any changes, esp. sudden changes, being made to their diet. And as good a substitute as Lamlac is, it can't really rival fresh milk straight from Momma.
Another, and probably the number one reason I've found, why lambs reject the bottle is the temperature of the milk. Many lambs can be *very* fussy about the temperature of the milk they will and won't accept - usually the milk they're being offered is just not warm enough. I know Lamlac says it's fine even to feed cold but lambs do have to be specially trained to drink milk that's cooler than it'd naturally be when it's straight out of mum (body temperature - 38c).
One of our personal 'golden rules' when it comes to hand rearing lambs is that we only ever give the lamb three goes at accepting a bottle at any one time. If the lamb 'drops off' the bottle or, as Gracie (the runtiest lamb I've ever known) always seemed to do, clenches their jaws together in a vice like grip that any iron man contestant'd be proud of, we let the bottle go for that particular feed and tube feed instead. Lambs are *very* sensitive to your feelings and if they get a whiff of the fact that you're worrying about whether they're going to take the bottle or not, how much milk you're going to be able to get into them, how long it's going to take etc, the lamb itself'll then get stressed out at the sight of the bottle and find it even harder to relax sufficiently to feed.
Some lambs will also refuse a bottle initially but, having gotten a small amount of milk via a stomach tube, will then happily finish their feed from a bottle. It is almost as if they're too hungry to engage with the bottle but once you've taken the edge off their hunger for them (via the tube), they are then able to relax and settle down to drink the rest of their bottle. If you're only feeding her four times a day it's possible she's getting over-hungry; six hours is a long time for such a young lamb to go between feeds. The trick to successful bottle feeding is to feed little and often.
Also make sure you hold the bottle high enough so she has to extend her neck in order to feed. Not only do lambs (and all young ruminants) need to feed with their necks fully extended in order to ensure their oesophageal groove closes and the milk goes into their abomasum (their 'milk stomach') but their instinct tells them to expect to find Mum's teats and therefore their milk somewhere up above their own head!
One other thing you can try to get her taking a bottle is to vigorously rub her tail at the same time as she's attached to the bottle. Yes, I know, it sounds weird but if you watch young lambs suckling their mothers, the mother ewe will quite often vigorously lick the lamb's tail at the time as it is suckling. It's not known for sure precisely why they do it but it is believed that it stimulates the lamb's appetite and encourages them to stay on the teat and suckle for longer.
Finally, I'd make sure the lamb was always offered her bottle in the exact same way and the exact same place (think Pavlov's dog!).
P.S. It's very easy to tube feed a lamb and, done properly, is stress-free for both you and the lamb. It would undoubtedly have saved both Jess and her lamb a lot of hassle and upset if only someone had given her a tube and shown her how to use it! However, if you ever want to try going down that track, make sure you get someone, be it a local sheep farmer, your local agricultural merchant (from whom you ought to be able to buy the tubes - I think Dad paid around 75p the other day for a tube), your vet or vet nurse, someone from the agricultural/animal care staff at your local agricultural college etc, to show you how to insert the tube (actually once you get it in the right position in the lamb's mouth, they always seem to happily swallow it) and more importantly, how you can be sure the tube is safely in the lamb's stomach before you pour any milk down it.
P.P.S. I don't really know if this applies to lambs or not but, having spent time at the elephant & rhino orphanage, I know they've found the only way to get some of their orphans to willingly accept a bottle is to recreate as far as possible the entire experience for the calf of suckling Mum. The keepers there have found through the years that it is not enough to simply place the bottle of milk in the orphan's mouth, squirt warm milk onto their tongue and then expect them to drink from the bottle. Some will but many won't. Many orphans seem to need the other sensations such as the feeling of having their head nestled into mum's body & to feel the weight of mum's udder resting on their head etc that they naturally associate with suckling in order to feed from a bottle. The way the keepers in Nairobi get around their orphans' refusal to take a bottle is to tie a rope between two trees, drape blankets over the rope then stand behind the blankets offering the teat of the bottle through the material of the blanket while the reluctant young elephant or rhino stands under the blanket so that it drapes over them like a tent, going some way to recreate the darker/weightier environment that they instinctively expect to find by going under mum's belly to suckle (yes, I do know rhinos are practically blind but for some reason probably known only to rhinos it still seems to be important to them!).
Who knows, maybe you should try offering a bottle to your reluctant feeder under a towel!
Owned forever by Puddles, Sweetpea, Beatrice, Tilly, Summer, Gracie, Jasper, Milo, Riley, Huxley, Jem, Bhodhi, Pepe and One-Eye.
the only reason i kept trying with milly was because she was always trying hard to take the bottle i wasn't literally force feeding her i just put the bottle in her mouth and she learnt to accept it, people suggested the tube feeding but i felt it would benefit her more in the long run to learn to drink from the bottle than the tube as i have seen this be quite traumatic for lambs before. but hannah is right there are many reasons a lamb will reject the bottle, the case with milly was she simply didnt know how to feed which is why her mother rejected her.
Could you wear a fleecy white sweater when you feed and orphaned lamb? It is important to recreate the natural experience. Zoo Keepers feeding a baby orangutan wore a fleecy vest for the baby to cling to. It worked, but it was probably hot and itchy. The thing we do for animals. We tube feed a litter of kittens. There were six of them and by the time you finished bottle feeding the last one it was time to start again with kitten one. It was the only way we could keep it up. They need feeding every two hours at first. It took the whole family to raise that litter. I imagine raising a lamb is quite a commitment. I hope all the orpaned lambs make it this year. They seem so helpless and vulnerable.