Effective Fostering and Artificial Rearing of Sheep


Summary written by Colin Macaldowie
Taken from Moredun Foundation Newsheet Volume 4 No. 2



  • lambing-4-newborn-lambIt is important that the farmer or shepherd can identify which lambs may need to be fostered or artificially reared and that they have the necessary training to do either technique successfully.
  • There are four basic fostering techniques (1) rubbing-on at birth; (2) late rubbing-on; (3) lamb adopters; and (4) skinning. Irrespective of the fostering technique which you use, remember these following basic rules:- Do not use weak or sick lambs.- Do not use sick ewes or ewes that may have aborted their own lambs.- Do not use ewes with insufficient milk.- Do not use very old, very young or inexperienced ewes- Do not let the lamb(s) starve.

If at first you don't succeed, give up!

  • If a lamb cannot be raised by its natural mother or fostered onto another ewe then it will have to be reared artificially. Rearing lambs in this way requires the very highest level of stockmanship and dedication if the lambs are to be reared successfully.
  • Ewe colostrum is the best food for the newborn lamb. If possible accumulate a store of ewe colostrum by milking ewes with a plentiful supply, e.g. ewes with single lambs. This can be stored in the deep freeze and defrosted when required.
  • The best substitute for ewe colostrum is cow colostrum. Milk replacer is an acceptable food for the lamb aged more than 24 hours but should not be regarded as a substitute for colostrum.
  • Do not wean lambs too early; otherwise a serious check in growth and intestinal problems will result. Try not to wean before 30 days of age or at a body weight of less than 10 kg. Always ensure that lambs are taking solid food before weaning.
  • This information contained in this newssheet has been taken from the book ‘Practical Lambing and Lambcare’ by Eales, Small and Macaldowie. The third edition of this book is due to be published in Autumn 2004 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.



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