Personal comments from a small farmer:
Most aren't "orphans" at all. Their sire is alive and well, and their mother has rejected them.
This is what we do, after trying things that didn't work.
We put the ewe and lamb/s into our "hospital wards" (old chook sheds), and H(usband) holds the ewe by the head
while W(ife) squats down on a stool and tries to get the lamb to suck. If the lamb is too weak to suck it will get some warm lamb formula in a soft drink bottle with a teat,
just to give it a bit of oomph to start with.
Warming up lambs is tricky. We've killed lambs with kindness by over heating them with hot water bottles in
a cardboard box (and also by squeezing air into the stomach with the formula), so be careful. You can use the lamb's own body heat safely with a plastic bread bag jacket - slit
along one long side and the back for the lamb's belly and bottom, and cut off the remaining corner to put its head through. If the bag won't stay on, cut four little holes to
put the lamb's legs through.
It's important to get the lamb sucking before the ewe's udder gets full and rock hard. If so, W massages the
udder and milks some out. It's especially difficult to cope if the ewe has a hard sore udder and the lamb was born with teeth.
We'll help a lamb along like this for three days, but now we give up after this. Once we did it for twelve
weeks until weaning, which took a lot of work. The lamb survived but went through fences with no fear of us, and when it lambed it rejected its own lamb. Never again! Now if
there is no success after three days we shoot the lamb. It's kinder than letting it die slowly. We aren't vegetarian, so we butcher it and put it in the freezer. It's bigger
than a rabbit, and very tender. Butchering also shows if there was anything wrong inside it. Our Vet says "nothing dies on my own place without being cut open".
When we started off, we were bottle feeding a lamb and stopped after a few days because it seemed to be
eating enough grass. It died with a round stomach full of undigested grass, and we learned that lambs still need milk after they start grazing.
We know that in larger flocks it can be worth setting up a feeder shed. It's a lot of work to prepare the
shed, then to clean the equipment and mix up the feed every day for a long time. We haven't done it, because we don't have enough orphans to justify tying ourselves down for
so many weeks. Another thing we have never tried is using a feeding tube into a newborn lamb's stomach. We'd like to learn about other small farmers' experiences.