Grafting Lambs

If a lamb is not receiving enough milk from the ewe (because of triplet lambs, ewes with bad udders, or some other reason), it is a good management practice to graft the lamb onto another ewe or to feed the lamb artificially.

There are several methods of grafting lambs, such as using special sprays to make the ewe accept the lamb. The most successful method is as follows: locate a ewe in the process of lambing a single lamb. After her lamb is delivered, check to be sure that she is not going to have another lamb. Do not let her get up until the lamb to be grafted has been brought over and thoroughly saturated in the placental fluids the ewe has just excreted. Then rub the lamb that is being grafted together with the newborn lamb. Tie the legs of the newborn to the lamb that is being grafted. Then allow the ewe to get up and lick the lambs. If the grafted lamb is thoroughly saturated and rubbed together with the newborn lamb, the ewe usually cleans both lambs and readily accepts both.

Then place the ewe and the two lambs in a lambing pen, keeping the lambs tied together until she has thoroughly cleaned both lambs. The lambs can then be untied and allowed to nurse. It may be necessary to restrict the older grafted lamb from nursing too much until the newborn lamb has had a chance to receive its share of the colostrum.

Occasionally, ewes refuse to claim their lambs. This is more common with ewes lambing for the first time. If ewes tend to do this year after year, they should be culled. There is not a best method of getting a ewe to claim her offspring. However, one method is to put the ewe in a stanchion and tie the ewe with a halter until she allows the lamb to nurse.

Tail-Docking and Castration

Lambs should be tail-docked and castrated at about 7 to 10 days of age. There is less bleeding and lambs heal more quickly when these operations are done at an early age. Elastrator rings may be used, but they are painful and there is a greater likelihood of tetanus. A pocket knife, emasculator, or burdizzo is very effective.

Cut off tails about 1 inch from the body. A good place is at the end of the caudal folds on the underside of the tail. Push the skin on the tail toward the body before cutting to allow enough loose skin to cover the end of the stub. If tetanus is a problem, vaccinate the lambs for this disease. (Your county Extension agent has more detailed instructions for these operations.)