Can Baby Sheep Drink Cow’s Milk?

Welcoming a new lamb into your farm family is always exciting and heartwarming.

But sometimes, there are obstacles to tackle when caring for a newborn.

If you ever have to feed a lamb whose mother isn’t willing or able to provide milk, you’ll need to decide the best course of action for feeding your little lamb. 

A baby sheep can drink cow’s milk if necessary. There are some fundamental differences in the content of cow’s milk and sheep’s milk, though. So, if you go this route, you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure the baby is getting all the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong.

It always seems daunting when an unexpected challenge like this one comes up.

But rest assured, this is a very conquerable obstacle, and we’ve got your back.

Keep reading for tips on feeding a baby sheep cow’s milk and a few other options for you.

can baby sheep drink cow's milk

Differences Between Cow’s Milk and Sheep’s Milk

Even though both produce dairy products, sheep and cows are two very different animals.

Sheep dairy products vary greatly from those of cows.

Sheep’s milk has higher fat content but smaller globules, which makes it easier to digest. 

This is true for humans as well as lambs.

Meanwhile, cows’ milk has a lower fat content but larger globules, which makes it easy to separate the cream from the rest of the milk.

This isn’t something you need when feeding a baby sheep, though.

You need to use cows’ milk with a higher fat content to be a good substitute for ewe’s milk.

Sheep’s milk also contains more protein than cows’ milk.

And it boasts more conjugated linoleic acid too, which is a sign it’s more likely to aid in preventing certain diseases.

Remember, for baby animals like a newborn lamb, changing between milk products impacts their health.

The mere fact they won’t be getting milk directly from their mother is going to make a difference to them.

If you choose to give them cows’ milk, you need to be aware of these core differences, so you’ll be able to compensate for them and provide your lamb with a balanced diet.

How to Substitute Cow’s Milk for a Baby Sheep

Our biggest concern throughout this process is taking care of your lamb’s little body.

As with human children and babies, sheep’s stomachs and bodies are more sensitive the younger they are. 

They also need to consume certain nutrients to maintain their health.

If you’re feeding a lamb cows’ milk, the most acceptable milk is the one with the highest fat and protein content.

The fat and protein in milk consumed by the baby will play a huge role in how fast and well they grow.

For this reason, full-fat cows’ milk is the way to go.

It’s your choice whether you use pasteurized milk or unpasteurized milk.

Unpasteurized milk contains more bacteria, so people are often skeptical of giving their children raw milk.

Sheep milk is never pasteurized because it doesn’t contain those same potentially harmful bacteria.

Keep those things in mind when you make your decision.

Note: If your animal doesn’t seem to tolerate the milk well and has body aches, diarrhea, or other signs of intolerance, find another substitute.

It’s like caring for your child; if you see lactose intolerance or dairy allergies in children, you stop giving them the milk.

It’s also a good idea to stay in contact with an animal health professional to ensure your lamb is gaining enough weight and getting the nutrients they need.

But if you’re worried about your sheep not getting enough nutrients, we’ve got you covered.

Other Substitutes for Ewe’s Milk

Goat Milk

Cows aren’t the only other animals found on a dairy farm.

Goats are also producers of dairy foods, and full-fat goats’ milk is much closer to sheep’s milk than cows’ is.

Again, the content of dairy products you use matters a lot here because it will impact how well your baby sheep grows.

Goats’ milk is still lower in fat and protein content than sheep dairy products. 

But it’s closer than cows’ milk.

There aren’t any exact equivalents of dairy from sheep for the baby. 

But goat’s milk isn’t so far off.

If you raise goats on your farm and have ready access to goats’ milk, use it.

Lamb Milk Replacers

If the cost of lamb milk is too high or none of the other types of milk are available to you, don’t fret.

When all else fails, there is always the choice to go with a commercial milk replacer. 

You’ll need to be careful and make sure all the necessary nutrients, fats, and protein are in the substitute you use, though.

When shopping for alternatives to dairy products, read the responses from other farmers. 

If they’ve had good experiences, the brand is more trustworthy.

These milk alternatives are relatively easy to use, even if you aren’t familiar with them yet.

It’s a similar process to the way you would mix formula for a baby who needs a substitute for breast milk.

The milk replacer comes in powder form, and you combine it with water to make it edible for the little lamb.

Make sure the water you use is clean and follow the instructions of the specific replacer you get. 

We don’t want any mix-ups hurting your newest farm family member.

Just as we recommended you look out for a reaction to milk from other animals, we also suggest watching out for common signs of intolerance when you use replacers. 

Diarrhea is always a sign your animal isn’t tolerating their food well.

If you’re worried about your lamb’s diet for any reason, go ahead and contact an animal health care provider.

Sheep’s Milk Is Always Best

Here’s your friendly reminder, it’s always better to purchase ewe’s milk rather than feed a newborn baby lamb another animal’s dairy product or a milk substitute.

If you don’t have a lamb on your farm, who can provide milk for the new lamb, do your best to find sheep’s milk elsewhere.

Sometimes things get in the way, and such an ideal solution is impossible. 

But if you have access, always go for ewe’s milk first.

Regardless, keep an eye on your lamb to make sure they’re around average weight and healthy.