The Dorper sheep is a hardy breed resulting from crossing a Dorset Horn sheep with a Blackheaded Persian. From South Africa, the Dorper has many fine qualities that have resulted in the breed spreading to many different countries. These sheep make excellent mothers who typically take very good care of their lambs. From time to time a mother may reject her baby or she may be unable to care for him. That's when you step in to bottle-feed.
The ewe’s first milk is colostrum, special milk that contains the antibodies a lamb needs to develop his immune system. If the lamb doesn’t get colostrum from his mother, it’s possible to substitute colostrum from another sheep, a goat or even a cow, though sheep colostrum is best. The lamb’s intestines can absorb antibodies for only the first 24 hours of life; after that the colostrum doesn’t provide any added benefit. Warm frozen colostrum to remove the chill, and feed the lamb three ounces for every pound he weighs, daily -- divide the amount into three or four feedings.
Use a good milk replacer made specifically for lambs. Dorper sheep are fast growing; having the right formula is particularly important to ensure that they develop properly. Look for a product that has at least 30 percent fat from animal sources and 24 percent to 25 percent protein derived from a dairy source. Mix the replacer according to the manufacturer’s instructions, shaking or stirring well to remove as many lumps as possible before feeding. Milk replacer is usually fed cold, you can feed it warm for the first week.
Feed a young lamb four times per day. Allow the lamb to drink as much as he wants at each feeding until he is a week old, then limit the amount to 20 ounces per feeding and two feedings per day. Offer a Dorper lamb will consume grain and alfalfa hay as soon as he is able to stand and eat. Always provide fresh drinking water. A Dorper lamb develops much faster than other breeds and will be consuming relatively large amounts of dry feed while he is still quite young. Wean your lamb by the time he is 6 weeks old.
If you’re feeding only one or two lambs, it’s fine to use a bottle with a lamb nipple on it and hand-feed each lamb. If you have more than two lambs to feed, it is generally more convenient to use a bucket feeder with several nipples on it. Help the lambs learn how to drink by gently placing the nipple in each lambs' mouth as often as necessary to give him the idea. A Dorper lamb eats more than lambs of many other breeds, so keep the milk in the bucket cold to discourage him from drinking too much at once.
- Oklahoma State University: Breeds of Livestock: Dorper
- University of Nebraska – Lincoln: 4-H Bottle Lamb Project
- Oregon State University Extension Service: Artificial Rearing of Lambs on Milk Replacer
- Penn State Extension: Preparing for Lambing: Be Prepared
- Half Circle Six Ranches: Frequently Asked Questions
Getty Images/Lifesize/Getty Images