Kitchen Lamb is now fully integrated with the sheep flock and also weaned. It was all easier than I thought it might be. In the picture above, you can see him next to the other set of triplet-born ram lambs, and they are quite a bit bigger than he is! Granted they are 2.5 weeks older, but the size difference is compounded by his small birth weight and the poorer growth characteristics of milk replacer. He is by far the littlest guy in the herd.

To transition him from the kitchen to outdoors, I penned him up with his own mother and brothers for a few days, inside a  dog “ex pen,” inside the hotwire enclosure with the other sheep. My intent was for him to bond a bit with some other lambs and maybe at least identify with his mother enough to follow her and find safety and comfort in her presence. My biggest worry was that he’d try to wiggle through the Electronet in search of humans, or dogs, and would become a plaything of Bronte’s. That would have resulted in inevitable injury or death for Kitchen Lamb!

The bonding went well enough, and after three days or so, I turned him loose with the whole sheep flock. He is still, and probably always will be, primarily bonded to people. So whenever one of us is out there, he comes running and bellowing to us, and then and follows us around. If I ride the ATV out there, he keeps getting in the way ‘til I let him ride on it with me, and then he’s happy. 😀 But he’s accepting of being left with the flock, and he does play with and sleep with the other lambs.

BucketFeederThe other thing I was concerned could be a problem was how to deliver his milk to him in the field. The sheep are entirely enclosed inside Electronet, and there are no solid fences or other objects on which to hang a milk bucket. So I needed a freestanding solution that would be easy to move every few days with the flock. It had to be sturdy enough to not fall over with Kitchen Lamb’s violent butting, nor when the shedding adult sheep tried to scratch themselves on it. What I came up with was fashioning a dog ex-pen in a “star” shape, and firmly bungee-cording the bucket to the wire. This worked fine, it only got knocked over a couple of times. By then, the lamb was drinking all his milk immediately on delivery twice a day. So nothing was spilled or lost when the knock-overs happened.

I started watering down his milk in the fifth week to help his body transition to relying mostly on grass for energy, and the plan was to cut him off milk completely at the end of the sixth week- the standard weaning time for bottle lambs. But he was crying a lot, so I ended up letting him drink half-strength milk into his seventh week before finally cutting him off cold turkey. My concern was that most people transition weaner lambs onto a processed grain diet designed for lamb growth, which is easier to digest for immature rumens. There isn’t a lot of advice out there for how old lambs should be to live on grass alone. So I was more conservative with him, to be sure he wasn’t going hungry. The seventh week transition worked better, he complained when he saw us for a few days, but now seems over it and is fully transitioned.

I spent about $68 on milk replacer for this dude, so that erodes into his profit margin quite a bit compared to the other lambs. I figure that this year, in just considering feed and care expenses alone (and not accounting for farm infrastructure or the investment of breeding animals), this crop of lambs will profit about $77 per lamb. So it’s clear how much milk replacer eats into this profit margin, not to mention the extra work bottle lambs require! I’ve concluded it probably is better to unload them as day-0ld lambs to someone who will pay $50 for them.