Katy Katahdin's Guides To:

Better Bottle Babies

Every year, you will need to grab one of your early lambing ewes (a tame one, preferably) and get some colostrum from her, after she has fed her newborns. Have someone hold the ewe, wash her udder in warm water, and milk into a clean jar. Take the colustrum and freeze it in a regular ice cube tray. When it is frozen, break the cubes out and put several of them in several small plastic freezer bags. When you find a lamb that you aren’t sure if it’s been fed, thaw the colustrum and warm it in hot water, then draw it into a syringe to give to the lamb. Do not heat it in a microwave because the antibodies in the colustrum will be killed.

The bottle baby will need a CDT vaccination if she had no colostrum. Remember whatever you do to NOT feed her all she wants, and dilute the formula 10% more than the instructions call for. Bottle babies always get the runs, but overfeeding will kill them. Don't feed her over a cup at a time until she's three weeks old, and you go to twice a day feedings.

I use Land O’ Lakes milk because it mixes the easiest. Even then it won’t stir into solution; shaking it works much better. Mix half a gallon in a one gallon plastic jug with a tight-fitting lid. Store unused portions in the refrigerator. It actually goes into solution better over a 12 hour period while refrigerated.

I found a product called “Green Light”, available from Jeffers. It is a combination electrolyte and Lactobacillus bacteria. It is a live culture, so sprinkle it onto the warm milk after it comes out of the microwave. I think it works better than any other thing for preventing diarrhea.

This is my schedule:

Birth to three days: 1/3 cup six times a day.
three days to one week: 1/2 cup four times a day.
one to two weeks: one cup four times a day.
two to three weeks: one cup three times a day.
three to four weeks: 1 1/2 cups three times a day.
four to five weeks: two cups twice a day
five to six weeks: one cup twice a day
six weeks: cold turkey.

The easiest way to feed the milk is in Aunt Jemima syrup bottles with the handles, and Pritchard teats from Premier Sheep Supply. Just rinse them out with diluted detergent and warm water after every feeding.

Make sure she always has the availability of hay, preferably alfalfa, and fresh water, down at her level. If at all possible, put the lamb in her own pen so that the ewes can’t steal her hay. Start lambs on feed at two weeks.

I like to leave the lamb in the house for about two days (where she can’t hear the ewes), until she associates me with food, then put her outside in her pen, in a sheltered, but sunny, part of the barn. You will have to get ear plugs and ignore her heart-rending tears when you put her outside. When you let her out, she will get batted around by the ewes, but will quickly learn to stay out of their way. Try to always feed her in the same place, so she can easily find you. Eventually she will find you even if you don't want her to. She will also try to go through any fence, so you need to take that into consideration.

If you have more than two bottle babies, you will need to gear up. The nursing bucket that you get from Premier works well if you get the Pritchard teat adapter first, rather than the big nipples. Although they say that the milk should be fed cold to limit intake, my lambs sucked it down like vacuum cleaners anyway, so that didn't work. Just put the correct amount per lamb in the bucket.

Bottle baby squirts (diarrhea) should be treated first with Pepto-Bismol and ProBiotic paste. If that doesn't work, and the diarrhea is extremely watery, you'll have to go with an antibiotic like sulfamethazine or Spectinamycin (oral).

Bottle babies never catch up to the others during their first year, but catch up eventually. They become your rotten pets for life, so if you have to take one away from its mother, take a female.

Good luck, and happy sleep deprivation!


I have learned to spot impending problems in udders over the years: any side that looks like it's not being drained (excessive swelling) or a side that looks too pink or red. I also keep an eye out for cut udders or teats, and immediately put the injured ewe on penicillin.

This is the proven treatment for mastitis:

Penicillin injections, appropriate for body weight, every day, preferably 48 hour or long-lasting type.

Give 2cc Oxytocin (the milk let-down hormone) every day.

Apply hot compresses to the udder before milking and,
Strip the affected side every day.

After milking, infuse a "Today" teat infusion antibiotic into the affected side. Tape over the affected side so that the lambs can't suck on the treated side.

Don't bother with an udder that's already hard, with a bloody discharge. Just give her penicillin for ten days to avoid fatal sepsis (blue bag).

Drying off ewes in order to avoid mastitis:

Gradually reduce feed during last three weeks of lactation.
Remove all feed, lick tubs and salt the last week of lactation.
Shut the ewes up without food or water for one day, but allow the lambs access through the creep panels to nurse from their mothers.

The next day, let the ewes out on one side of the fence, and the lambs on the other. They can still be close, but the lambs can't suck. Most livestock raisers with this experience say that cross-fence weaning results in the lowest stress.