The danger of feeding colostrum from cows to newborn lambs

We recently had a submission of two one-week-old lambs from a holding where six out of seven orphan lambs had died. All had received natural colostrum from a cow on the first day of life. They thrived for the first few days but then deteriorated over several days before dying. They had been lethargic and were noted to have very pale mucosae.

The carcases were very pale and the post-mortem findings were consistent with anaemia. ZSTs showed that both lambs had absorbed significant levels of antibodies. Bovine colostrum associated anaemia was suspected and when the colostrum was tested it was positive for anti-sheep red blood cell activity at a 1 in 8 dilution.


  • Be aware of the danger of feeding cow colostrum to newborn lambs
  • If feeding cow colostrum is unavoidable consider having it tested first. Although the test is not validated we have over 20 years experience of using it
  • If testing is not carried out it may be safer to pool colostrum from multiple cows to dilute down the antibodies if they are present


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Marked pallor of carcase

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