This post is also available in: French Spanish Italian Turkish Romanian

Country: Ireland

Dairy or/and meat sheep: Meat and diary

Level of solution:






Just Being Tested


Aim:  To present options for artificially rearing surplus lambs


  • As ewe productivity increases the incidences of multiple births increases.
  • Many of these surplus lambs are either:
  1. cross fostered to single bearing ewes
  2. sold for cross fostering
  3. reared as triplets
  4. artificially reared on milk replacer
  • The three main methods of artificially rearing lambs are as follows:

1. Bottle rearing:

  • has a low set up cost
  • involves feeding three to four times a day
  • has a high labour demand
  • results in large intakes of milk a few times per day which may lead to stomach upsets

2. ​​​​​​​Ad lib feeders:

  • hold up to 50 litres of milk which is maintained at constant temperature using a thermostat
  • can rear 20 to 25 lambs per unit
  • require mains electricity to operate
  • costs approximately €350
  • have limited labour requirement (cleaning, mixing milk, refilling)
  • result in reduced stomach upsets as milk is available ad libitum​​​​​​​

3. Automated feeders:

  • mix milk replacer with warm water as required ensuring a fresh supply of milk at all times
  • are plumbed to a water supply and requires mains electricity
  • have high set up costs (approx. €3,500)
  • can rear up to 250 lambs per unit
  • have low labour input as only periodic cleaning is required

Expected benefits:

  • Provides a mechanism to rear lambs from large litters.
  • Increases profitability from additional lambs.

Prerequisites and/or limits:

  • Additional set up costs and labour requirement to rear lambs

Scientific basis:

Ward, SJ., Liste, G., Tinarwo, A. 2011. Attitudes of UK sheep farmers towards fostering methods: A national survey.                   Small Ruminant Research, 99, 87-92

Gottstein, M. 2017. Strategies for Dealing with Orphan Lambs in High Litter Size Flocks. Proceedings of the Teagasc                  National sheep conference 2017. The Landmark Hotel, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim. Pp. 14-18.

Costello. D. 2017. Options for Surplus Lambs in High Litter Size Flocks. Animal and Grassland Research and                              Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Athenry, Co Galway.              lambs-in-high-litter-size-flocks.php

Keady and Hanrahan. 2018. Effects of birth type and weight on mortality and performance of artificially reared lambs.                Advances in animal biosciences. 9:60


Tips and Tricks:


Colostrum stocking
Fostering bucket
Wet fostering protocol
Artificially rearing lambs
Surrogate goats
Car to transport lambs to the lactation room
Colostrum conservation in single-dose plastic bottles
Adoption of unwanted lambs
Feeding tool for young/orphans
Storing frozen colostrum


Level 1 assessment


Benefit expected mortality
less workload
better labor organisation
better feed management
less stress for the farmer 
Is the solution suitable for various production systems Y
If no – for which system  
What are the asset costs <100 up to €3,500
What are the maintenance costs 50-100
Any limits to its applicability additional set up costs and labour requirement to artificially rear lambs
Work Load
  Farmers Service provider/tech.-vet-others
How much time is required to prepare and implement the solution <1 day  
How many people is needed to implement the solution? One  
How long it takes to get results? Immediate
How long it takes to see  an effect on sheep productivity? Current production period
  Farmers Service provider/technicians-vet-others
What kind of equipment/tool are necessary? Purchased feeders  
Skill/Knowledge-Training (farmer)
Does the solution need any specific skill/knowledge or training? How to set up and clean feeders 
How much time will be required for training < 1 day
Wider Environment
Is there any particular regulation link to the solution? No 
Does the solution need any particular structure or organisation? No 


Level 2 assessment: None available

This post is also available in: French Spanish Italian Turkish Romanian