Bottle Lambs

Every year we end up with a handful of bottle lambs and every year I curse them.

When lambing wraps up we are still left with the task of taking care of lambs for a few more weeks. They need to be fed at least a few times a day, so we can’t go too far. Just when I’m looking forward to the freedom to leave if I like I’m still tied to the place because of a few bottle babies. They don’t grow well and don’t thrive, at least mine don’t, but then I’m not putting top care into them either. This years bottle lambs are weaned off of milk now but when weaned off of milk they go downhill a bit before picking up again. So I’m left wondering if it was worth it.

Then there is this little problem. Bottle lambs lose their sheepiness. They don’t act like sheep. They do not know to flock. They do not care about dogs. I’m sure they’d walk right into a coyote’s mouth. This little fellow is a case in point.

This is Baby Bunting. A bottle lamb from 2011. He is stationed with the rams who were in the barn paddock until we started building there and removed part of the perimeter fence temporarily. Then the ram group was moved out to a large piece of pasture. When in the barn paddock Baby was secure and because the area was smaller, he was always nearby the rams. Once in a larger area, he wandered off on his own. He slipped through the fence and we found him 1/2 mile South on another paddock. All on his own, not a real care in the world. Perfect coyote pickings.

So we retrieved him and set him with the yearling ewes that I use for dog training. Here he makes a nuisance of himself because he won’t come along with the other sheep. And I don’t want him to when I get sheep for lessons. But it can confuse the heck out of the stock dogs as they don’t believe he should be left behind. Yet he doesn't respond like any other sheep.

Baby Bunting is sweet and quite the character but still a pain to keep as will this years lambs be. If we keep this up we’ll soon have a small flock of bottle raised sheep to sell. 


  1. Bottle lambs taste really good... Have you ever tried leaving them with the ewes, but with a creep and a bucket set up? That way they still are sheep, and only look to you to fill the bucket twice a day.

  2. "Bottle lambs taste really good..."

    Chuckle. Yes, I'm sure they do.

    I have not tried what you suggest, although it sounds like a great idea. My excuse is that I've never purchased nor fed creep feed nor do I have a creep feeder. These lambs need to go elsewhere though, so I will have to come up with some similar solution, or just risk placing them with the flock and hope they learn to keep up.

  3. Arlette, I don't know about your set up but what works well for me is to keep the bottle feds in a box stall for a few days and then put them out with a flock of sheep (in my case I leave them with all the other ewes and lambs) and when I go out to bottle feed, I take a dog with me. If the lamb tries to follow me out of the pasture after it is done with it's bottle, the dog will hit it on the nose. Just hard enough to make them blink, and then they go back to their other lamb friends and keep thinking they are a lamb. That way, they learn to follow what the others are doing (ie run from a dog, try hay and creep feed, flocking behavior). Within a month of weaning, you can't tell who was bottle fed by their behavior.

  4. Hi Jenny, I like your solution. I think it would work better to put the bottle feds out with the flock sooner. Our concern is finding them again in the larger pastures but I imagine if they are well started on the bottle they will seek us out for the next meal. I love your use of the dog to send the lambs back.

  5. I decided to sell all of my bottle lambs this year! With my husband working and looking after my 2-yr old daughter, I decided that they were not worth to deal with, as I never have very good luck with them either. I'd rather have them be with someone who enjoys them!


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