“When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.”
The most painful rejection, perhaps, is that of a child by an earthly parent. How sweet it is to know that your Creator, Heavenly Father, and Good Shepherd cares for and loves you deeply. This we may learn from sheep.
The physical reasons a ewe mother rejects its lamb may include the inability to provide nourishment, low to no milk supply or udder mastitis (engorged). A ewe can sense sickness or a defect in its lamb; some are visual and others become more distinguishable with time. The psychological reasons a ewe mother rejects its lamb may include her first time lambing, separation from its lamb for a significant period of time, confusion, fear, no interest in bonding, or a difficult birth. A ewe also may have passed away during or after lambing, leaving its lamb an orphan.
A shepherd or farmer, in many of these instances, will assess the ewe’s willingness to allow its lamb to come close and nurse. In displaying complete detachment (broken bond) and desired distance, a ewe will often run away, head butt or kick its lamb. If the lamb is unable to be paired with an adoptive ewe that is actively nursing its own lamb, a rejected lamb (a bummer) may be auctioned off as soon as possible. This often occurs when a shepherd or farmer has a large flock and is time constrained, as the lamb will need to be bottle-fed every 2-3 hours for the first two weeks and then every four hours for the following weeks until weaned.
Auctions, farmer’s markets, feed stores, and agriculture extension schools may allow the opportunity for a farm to purchase livestock or an adoptive family to obtain the orphan as a pet. Whether a rejected lamb is raised by its shepherd, a farmer or is adopted, it will need immediate attention and loving care. It will be assessed and if needed, its temperature raised. It will be placed in a draftless, confined area in the home, swaddled in warm towels, placed on heated bedding, and clothed in a sweater throughout the day. When bottle-feeding, young lambs receive colostrum, which provides hormones. Mature lambs are given a milk replacer.
It will be weaned between 6-8 weeks or when it reaches 25-30 pounds. Even so, supplemental grain may be needed, as it may lack successful foraging skills in comparison to a natural-raised lamb. When weaned, it is placed with the flock for interaction as soon as possible to learn common sheep mannerisms: roles of dominance/submissiveness, response to safety instincts, grazing, and similar survival skills. Those who adopt the lamb as a family pet may or may not have additional lambs, ewes, or rams to introduce the newling to mannerisms. Thus, it is imperative to consider that the lamb is not meant to be solitary for optimal holistic health.
Praise the Lord, the rejected and orphaned one is adopted into His fold. “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Psalm 95:7. “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom … .” Isaiah 40:11
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:3–6