It's an idea that comes from England and has been tried on a number of farms of agricultural colleges in the United States. Animal scientist, Dr. Lowell Slyter, at South Dakota State University, Brookings, reports outstanding success with it.
The fostering pen Dr. Slyter tested is about 4 by 5 ft. with solid plywood sides and front. The front panel is a stanchion with an 8-in. opening for the ewe's neck and an adjustable 2-in. board to keep her in the stall but with room to stand or lie down. A 12 in. drop board provides access at the rear of the pen.
"The idea is that the ewe can't get away from the orphan lamb, and cannot injure it. The solid front end also prevents her from seeing the lamb, though we don't know how important this is," says Slyter.
After a new lamb gets some of the ewe's milk, it begins to smell like the foster mother and is usually accepted after three to five days.
The ewes and foster lambs should be turned loose in small groups, Slyter says, so they can be watched to be sure they don't get separated from their "adopted" mothers.
"We lost only one lamb last year while using this method of grafting lambs to new mothers," he says. "It's an economical way to raise lambs and a way to use a milk-producing ewe which has only one lamb or has lost her lambs."
The stall is simple to build. For more details on construction and costs, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dr. Lowell Slyter, Animal Science Dept., South Dakota State University, Brookings, So. Dak. 57007 (ph 605 688-5165).
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