Colostrum management

Management Tips

Colostrum is key to reducing losses from both hypothermia and disease in newborn lambs.

As a first feed it is particularly rich in proteins, which carry specific antibodies that provide the lamb with immunity from infection. Colostrum is also high in energy, which will help the lamb maintain body temperature.

Lamb getting licked

Colostrum – the fuel for life

Colostrum is without doubt the "fuel for life" and the key to survival for all newborn lambs. It  is absolutely essential to ensure that all newborn lambs receive sufficient quality colostrum to promote good health and well-being.

Protein Content of Colostrum and Milk
Breed Pre-Suckling 2nd Day 3rd Day 5th Day 7th Day
Finnish 21.9% 6.4% 5.9% 5.5% 5.2%
Blackface 20.7% 11.0% 7.5% 6.3% 5.7%

Approximately fourteen days prior to parturition, a ewe begins to concentrate protein in her milk, to such a level that the milk becomes thick. It is what we know as ‘Colostrum’.

The large protein molecules in colostrum carry antibodies that offer the suckling lamb protection from disease. Colostrum is also high in energy, particularly in the form of fat, which enables a new born lamb to maintain body heat and encourages feeding. Mothers colostrum is always preferable, however, where a ewe is unable to provide sufficient quality colostrum for all of her lambs, an alternative needs to be fed quickly.

1  Foster ewe
2  Frozen ewe colostrum (thaw slowly below 55°C to preserve immunoglobulins – do not microwave)
3  Frozen cow colostrum (thaw as above – mix from at least four cows to reduce risk of haemolytic anaemia occurring at around 5-12 days. Increase volume fed by 20-40% to compensate for lower level of nutrients in cows milk.)
4  High quality colostrum alternative (Volac Lamb Volostrum)

Lambs under lamp

Ensuring all lambs receive enough quality colostrum is the key to reducing losses from hypothermia and disease.

This chart illustrates the link between colostrum absorption and mortality in lambs. Lambs which receive little or no colostrum have a significant greater risk of dying (source Moredun, 1977).  For example, lambs which absorbed low levels of colostrum had a 50% mortality rate.

Colostrum Pie Chart image

Block 01 Low
Block 02 None
Block 03 Adequate
Block 04 Ample

When Should Colostrum Be Fed?

As soon as possible…and preferably within the first six hours... whilst the gut wall is most permeable.

How much should be fed?

50ml per kg liveweight per feed

Daily intake required is higher than you think!

For lambs born and raised outdoors, increase colostrum allowance by 15%

The 3Q rule of Colostrum Managment


  • Ewe condition
  • Ewe parity
  • Ewe health


50ml/kg liveweight per feed, min 210ml/kg bodyweight in 1st 24hrs


First 6 hrs of life, small frequent feeds in first 24 hrs

More in-depth information on Colostrum Management is contained in our Lamb Husbandry Guide. To obtain your free copy, please contact us on Freephone 0800 919808.

Freephone advice line

0800 919808