MilkLast year, I had complained to a friend about the cost of lamb milk replacer, and she shared with me her recipe for making it from scratch. She has been raising sheep for many years, and says that this recipe works great for her, grows big lambs, and never causes scours or diarrhea. So I thought I’d give it a try this year.

Here is the recipe:

1 two-quart carton of whole (vitamin D) milk
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 egg
–>whisk egg and cream together, add milk

Edit: I’ve had a lot of metric system folks ask me how this translates. It is about 1.9 liters of milk and 60 mL of cream. 

The deal with sheep versus cow’s milk is that sheep have richer milk. It’s higher in fat, protein, calcium, and calories; so cow’s milk alone won’t grow lambs adequately. Because lambs have a small frame size, and are taking in a much smaller total volume of milk, they need more fat and calorie concentration to stay warm and grow, compared to a calf. And of course, whole milk in the store isn’t really whole, it’s had its cream skimmed off. But adding the cream back, plus an egg, apparently brings it in more line with sheep’s milk.

I had a little anxiety about this, as it just seems like the scientifically derived milk replacer should be somewhat better, or safer, or something. But I trust the person who gave this recipe to me, and I really wanted to find a better option for orphan rear lambs that doesn’t destroy their whole profit margin.

I do think it’s a little cheaper than milk replacer. In browsing the web, it seems like maybe you could get milk replacer for as low as about $4.65 per gallon, if you buy it in small quantities. Which usually you do, because you hate to end up with extra. But I think I am paying more like $6/gallon to buy it locally. I think I figured I spent about $68 on MR for one lamb last year, though I had some waste and leftovers. Going by the packaging instructions, if you fed a lamb for five weeks on MR, that’s about seven gallons of milk. So it’s at least a $30 investment, and probably more like $40-60.

By comparison, it seems that local grocery stores currently carry the generic brand whole milk for around, or even under, $3 per gallon. The whipping cream and egg bring it up to about $3.90 per gallon. So the total per lamb comes in under $30.

But the best part is that the ingredients are easily obtained even at odd hours of the day or week. With lamb milk replacer, in the springtime, there are times when multiple feed stores can run out of it at once, leaving you in a panic. And this mixes nicely cold, which some MR’s do, and some don’t. So for people who make their milk out in a barn, this could be a boon.

I’m having great luck with the recipe, though I did feel that it wasn’t adding fat onto the newborns quick enough, so I doubled the cream and eggs for their first week or so. This is nice too, it’s easy to adjust it up or down depending on their weight gain. And I concur with my friends conclusion: no diarrhea! I’m sold!

Edit 2/24/13: Check out the Lindercroft blog for some interesting variations on this recipe, meant for goat kids- but some useful ideas on ways of modifying/improving the general concept.