Colostrum Management – Fuel of Life

Colostrum is the first feed for the newborn lamb and the key to survival. It’s a highly nutritious energy source which helps the lamb to maintain body temperature and survive; it also contains antibodies which are vital to help protect the newborn lamb against disease. Feeding sufficient good quality colostrum immediately after birth will reduce losses from both hypothermia and disease. It’s critical to carefully feed your in-lamb ewes in order to stimulate the production of quality colostrum and ensure lambs get the best start in life.

Remember the 3Q Rule:

  • Feed colostrum as soon as possible after birth – preferably within the first six hours. This is when the gut wall is most permeable, allowing for the large antibody molecules to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
  • Provide small frequent feeds during the first 24 hours
Quantitylamb pic
  • 50ml/kg live weight per feed
  • Minimum 210ml/kg live weight within the first 24 hours
    Daily intake
    3kg lamb = 1.1 pints (630ml)
    4kg lamb = 1.5 pints (840ml)
    5kg lamb = 1.8 pints (1050ml)
    For lambs born and raised outdoors, increase the colostrum allowance by 15% to 20%.

The quality of colostrum will determine the level of antibodies present in the colostrum. Quality is affected by:
• Ewe condition: body condition score 3 at tupping and vaccinate against infectious abortion and clostridial disease
• Ewe parity: the number of previous lambings
• Ewe health: healthy, well-nourished ewes are able to develop a healthy placenta which reaches its optimum size around day 90 of pregnancy when the placenta releases hormones which stimulate the lactating cells in the udder and colostrum starts developing three to five weeks before lambing.

While mothers’ colostrum is preferable, if ewe colostrum is unavailable, in short supply or of poor quality, then
colostrum must be fed quickly from another source. Options include fresh or frozen colostrum from another
ewe, bovine colostrum or a high quality natural alterative such as Volac’s Lamb Volostrum.

Colostrum should be fed warm around 39°C. Stand in a bowl of warm water; do not microwave colostrum or heat it directly. Temperatures above 45°C can damage the sensitive proteins within colostrum.

Volostrum – the alternative colostrum

Volac Lamb Volostrum is an ideal alternative or supplement when a ewe’s colostrum is not available or is in short supply due to multiple births, a sick ewe or a lamb being orphaned. Volostrum is made from high quality whey proteins which have been carefully processed to retain protein quality. It also contains a highly digestible source of energy.


Independent trial findings from University College Dublin have concluded that surplus lambs fed Volostrum were as healthy and perform equally as well as those that suckled ewes or were fed artificially on ewe’s colostrum. Furthermore mortality was nil.

The trial featured 30 surplus lambs from the University’s 350 ewe flock, and split in to two groups. Half the lambs were fed ewe colostrum at 50ml/kg birth weight at one, 10 and 18 hour intervals after birth whilst the remainder were each fed at the same intervals, one, 50g sachet of Volac Lamb Volostrum (three, 50g sachets over 18 hours). All the surplus lambs were reared artificially on Lamlac ad libitum via a Ewe-2 feeder from 24 hours, and weaned at just over six weeks of age. Colostrum table

“The two groups of lambs recorded identical pre-weaning growth rates and nil mortality which highlights that when ewe colostrum is in short supply, as is often the case with multiple births, triplet lambs can be successfully artificially reared and achieve high growth rates,” explains University College Dublin’s Dr. Tommy Boland.” See Table 1.

The Irish findings mirror precisely earlier research findings from Harper Adams University, whilst over 30 farm studies have concluded that farmers were satisfied that Volostrum was very effective as a first feed for lambs.

Volac’s Jessica Cooke adds: “These findings reflect the fact that Volostrum, as a colostrum alternative, supplies a readily available source of nutrients and energy to get the young lamb up and on to its feet in those critical first few hours. The alternative is based on high quality un-denatured whey proteins which have been processed under low temperature conditions that maintain the integrity of the biologically valuable globular proteins essential to the
young lamb. “In fact a 140ml feed of ewe colostrum would provide 28g protein, in comparison to a 50g first feed of Volostrum providing 38g protein.”

Written by Jessica Cooke – Young Animal Technical Specialist at Volac

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