Yoghurt milk for bloat prevention in lambs

Springtime is coming around quickly, meaning lambing isn’t far off! A common problem we see in young, bottle-fed lambs is bloat. Luckily, there is a simple yoghurt-milk recipe that you can make up yourself to help prevent bloat.

What is bloat? 

Abomasal bloat occurs when warm milk enters the abomasum (a compartment of the stomach) and interacts with specific types of bacteria, causing fermentation. Excess gas is released and causes the abomasum to expand. It is possible for the wall of the abomasum to rupture due to this pressure build-up and cause death. Bloat is an emergency; if you think one of your lambs has it, you should ring your vet immediately.  Bloat can be caused by feeding either cows milk or a milk replacer powder. Not all lambs will be susceptible to bloat as it depends on whether they have the specific bacteria present in their gut. 

How does yoghurt help? 

Yoghurt helps to prevent bloat as it contains probiotics which help prevent pathogens (bacteria which cause disease) from multiplying. It also contains prebiotics which stimulate good bacteria growth. The yoghurt can also help to prevent scours as it improves immune function. 

When to start feeding  

Ensure new-born lambs get colostrum (the first milk from a cow or ewe which is high in antibodies) from the time it is born and for the first 2 days of life. From day 3-5 of age, the lamb should get warmed milk replacer or cows’ milk as normal – do not add any yoghurt yet! From day 5-7 of age, the milk/yoghurt mixture should be introduced, gradually transitioning from warm to cold. The mixture needs to be fed cold; warm milk with yoghurt will not effectively prevent bloat. This mixture should be fed every feed time and can be done up until weaning. 

Yoghurt/milk recipe 

These recipes come from Beef and Lamb NZ: 

For a single feed, it is as simple as adding one tablespoon of acidophilus yoghurt per 500ml of mixed up milk powder or cows milk just before feeding, and mix well. 

For multiple feeds: 
– Put 3 litres of warm water (40) in a 10 litre bucket and add 1.5kg lamb milk replacer powder. Mix  well. Then add 200mls acidophilus yoghurt. Mix and cover with a lid. 
– Keep mix warm for the next few hours. The bucket can be put in an insulated box (eg chilly bin with lid) or in a hot water cupboard. A hot water bottle is a cheap source of heat in the box. 
– The yoghurt should be set within 12 hours and has no crust and no liquid at the bottom. It resembles commercial yoghurt. 
– Remove 200mls to use as a starter for the next batch. 
– Now top up with cold water to the 8 litre mark on the bucket and mix. 

The soured milk will keep for up to 5 days in a cool place. Sometimes the holes in the lamb teats need to be enlarged just slightly to allow the thicker yoghurt-ised milk to pass through. Feed this mixture cold, using the packet guidelines to work out the volume for each feed according to lamb age.