What are bottle babies at the sheep and goat auctions or any livestock auction?
Bottle babies are baby sheep, goats, or livestock that for many reasons have to be raised by a human with regular feedings from a bottle or bucket or milk machine. Often the mother dies or is unable to feed the baby sheep or goat.
Are there problems with buying bottle babies?
Yes, there are multiple problems with raising a bottle baby, but there are solutions to the problems. First, all mammals need to receive colostrum when they are born to get their digestive enzymes working and build the immune system or ability to fight off bacteria within the body. If a newborn sheep or goat does not receive this important colostrum, they have a harder time surviving. There is colostrum a person can mix and feed to the young lamb or kid. I recently purchased a baby goat, Spot, and since I did not know if he had received the important colostrum, I fed the colostrum first.
Note: colostrum needs to be fed within the first 48 hours of life.
Is there a lot of work in raising a bottle baby?
Absolutely. As with any baby, they have to be fed often and consistently. Starting out they eat very little and need to be fed every four hours around the clock. As they grow, they eat more at each feeding and less often.
Feeding is not the only care a baby lamb or goat needs. They need a clean, dry, free from drafts, warm place to stay. During the summer months I keep the bottle babies outside. During the winter, I place them inside the house in a dog crate. Each day the dog crate has to be cleaned.
The babies need exercise and to be touched and petted by the caregiver. Ewes and nannies touch, lick and clean their babies. At night, the babies lay down touching their mother to sleep. Bottle babies need touch from the caregiver. Going for walks outside help to build appetite, strong muscles and bone in the young lamb or goat.
Socialization. When the bottle babies get two weeks old, they need to start becoming a part of the flock or herd. Taking them for walks among the flock or herd helps them to learn of others like themselves. Being introduced to the flock or herd gives the young lamb or kid the opportunity to play with youngsters their age. During this play they learn how to socialize, what behaviors are allowed by the flock and those that are not.
What are the costs involved to raise a bottle baby lamb or goat?
Aside from the cost of the bottle baby, the main expense is formula for the baby lamb or goat. General milk replacer does not work very well with baby lambs as their is usually too much copper. I have found with experience that getting lamb replacer for lambs is best. I use the same lamb replacer for bottle baby goats. Some people mix their own milk replacer. Then there are some who have sheep or goats they can milk to provide the milk for the bottle baby. Lambs do well on fresh goat milk as I have used this in the past. Sometimes if you have the right nanny or ewe who loves to have babies, you can graft the bottle baby onto the nanny or ewe provided she has milk production. I once grafted a lamb onto a nanny who had lost her kids. I have also grafted lambs on to ewes who lost a kid or only had a single. Some ewes are easier than others to graft a bottle baby onto.
Do bottle babies have a hard time surviving?
With proper care, deligent feedings a bottle baby can grow up to be a fine and friendly sheep or goat. In my area there is a demand for friendly goats and sheep to be pets for children or grandchildren.
Can you make money raising bottle babies?
Making money raising bottle babies depends on how much the bottle baby cost you to start. I have raised bottle baby lambs as I had a very well bred ewe that was not able to feed twins. Those lambs became producing ewes in my flock and make me a good profit.
Then I have seen people buy bottle baby lambs at the sheep auction and pay the amount those lambs would bring in six months as market lambs. They are going to lose money if they intend to sell them for market or breeding sheep to someone else.
The main expense is formula for the bottle baby. Depending on what you will pay for formula and the cost of the baby lamb or kid verses what the lamb or kid will sell for determines if you have a profit or loss on all your hard work.
If you calculate your time in feeding and caring for the bottle baby, you will always lose money unless you are raising a Grand Champion that will sell for a very high price.
The well bred ewe I purchased that I learned at her first lambing was only able to feed one lamb, raising her second and third lambs was a good investment. The improvement in the genetics of my ewe flock along with the reputation of the bloodlines was a benefit. I will eventually make back the cost of my time as the lambs from her offspring will sell for more than the lambs of my other ewes.
Finally note of bottle babies.
Bottle babies need discipline from the caregiver. It is cute and funny when a baby lamb or goat does something, but you have to think that baby is going to grow a be an adult. Currently, my bottle baby goat, Spot, likes to jump in my lap. Spot was started on a bottle by someone else, and they fed him in their lap. As he has grown, he is now able to jump in my lap. I have to block and say no, or tap him and say no to stop this dangerous habit. When Spot is six months old and weighing 90 pounds, it will not be safe or funny for him to jump in my lap. Realize the what a bottle baby does today, might be hazardous in three or six months.
Personally, I enjoy the occasional bottle baby lamb or goat. I am glad I have the skills to grow a bottle baby to an adult as there are times a sheep farmer needs to bottle feed a baby lamb. Sometimes ewes die during delivery or by a predator.Instead of a total loss of ewe and lamb or lambs, the sheep farmer can retain some of the asset by raising the lamb or lambs. May not have as much profit, but will not have a total loss. Or the ewes have triplets and quads, to keep the lambs growth rates up, the ewe raises two lambs and the sheep farmer raises the rest.