DOI: 10.3390/ruminants3040038 ISSN: 2673-933X

A Survey of the Current Farming Practices and Perceptions on Adopting Orphan Lambs in the United Kingdom: How Do “Ewe” Do It?

Louise Whatford, Benedict Delahaye Chivers, Megan Rowe, Nicola Blackie
  • General Medicine

Fostering orphan lambs is common in the United Kingdom and therefore it is important to understand more about these practices to support sustainable sheep farming. Data were collected on current approaches to adopting lambs and the perceived success of these methods using an online survey. Of the 543 responses, 93.7% reported that they attempt to foster lambs with the most common reasons reported as high litter size and ewes with little to no milk production. Although respondents reported that the best method was wet, non-tethering techniques, the most commonly used methods were tethered (restraint of the ewe) followed by untethered (birth fluids and skins from dead lambs). Other techniques included disguising the smell of the lamb. There was a significant association between increased flock size and using tethered methods as well as increased numbers of methods used and orphan lambs (p ≤ 0.001). However, larger flocks were also associated with decreased lamb survival rates (p ≤ 0.001). Time and patience were mentioned as important tips for fostering and could be a factor in which method is chosen. Research on the impacts of these methods is warranted as some may be stressful, affecting long-term flock performance, survival, welfare and health.

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