Colostrum is the first milk that the sheep produces after giving birth. This milk is thicker than the milk produced later by the sheep. Colostrum contains alot of nutrients and antibodies that are vital for the lambs survival. At birth the lamb does not have any antibodies as the sheep's antibodies do not cross the placenta.
It is critical that the lambs receive colostrum during the first 24 hours of life. Absorption of these vital antibodies and nutrients from the colostrum is most effective during the first few hours after birth.
A lamb should receive 10 percent of their body weight in colostrum in the first 24 hours of birth.
The possibility of death in a lamb that does not receive colostrum in the first 24 hours is very high. In some cases the lamb does survive in a germ free environment but on a busy farm this is highly unlikely. This is why you have a lamb that is perfect at birth but starts to fade and die a few days later as they have got an infection from lack of antibodies.
A sheep farmer who wants the best results from their flock will ensure that their newborn lambs have received their colostrum.
Its best practice to check the ewe for milk after she has given birth. You can do this by giving a tug on her teat. You first remove the protective plug and then the milk should flow.
If the sheep has plenty of milk but the lamb is very weak and cannot suckle you need to milk the sheep. Its best to tube feed the lamb with the colostrum.
If the case is that the sheep has no milk you need to buy colostrum powder for the lambs. This is different to the lamb milk replacer. Each brand of colostrum has a different preparation method. The quantity to be given will be shown on the instructions.
Ewes can differ in the quality and quantity of the colostrum they produce.
The ewe colostrum differs in texture and appearance to the normal ewe milk. Its thicker and darker usually.
Below is a picture of the lamb when he was healthy and big enough to return with its sibling. There is a big size difference. The mother ewe accepted the tiny lamb straight away as the lamb was fed with her milked milk while in my care. Her milk leaves a particular smell in the lambs poop which she recognized. She was a quiet sheep which helped.