Video: Buyers guide to ad-lib lamb feeders

As lambing approaches and labour is harder to find than ever before, it could be time to invest in an artificial lamb feeder to lighten the workload.

With a variety of ad-lib, warm milk dispensers on the market, it is possible to achieve good growth rates for orphans and triplets without the hassle of bottle feeding.

Here we focus on a range of ad-lib feeders from the most sophisticated to budget setups.

See also: Q&A: Expert guide on how to set up sheep housing

The Heatwave Milk Warmer

Heatwave Milk Warmer

Manufacturer: Pyon Products

Feed space: Up to 50 lambs/goat kids

Price: £510 (including VAT) 

How it works: The Heatwave Milk Warmer heats cold milk to be fed, ad lib to lambs, calves and goat kids.

The system can be used with whole milk or milk powder. Milk powder is mixed cold and stored in a suitable container standing next to the Heatwave, and outside the lamb pen.

Milk can be mixed by hand or using a stirrer. Because it is stored cold, good-quality milk will keep fresh for 24 hours, which reduces wastage.

Silicone pipes carry milk to four teats on two teat bars inside the pen. Lambs suck the milk from the reservoir, and as it moves along the pipes, through the heated water tank, it is warmed.

Non-return valves hold milk in the line, and warm milk is always available on demand. 

The machine has been designed for low maintenance so there are no moving parts. Daily maintenance includes a five-minute manual washing routine.

Key features

  • Sits outside the pen, to reduce knocks and spillage
  • Feeds up to 50 lambs/kids or 30 calves
  • Milk stored cold, so less waste than some bucket-based versions  
  • Uses whole milk, or milk powder
  • Reliable – no moving parts

Requirements: A standard three-pin mains socket. Connection to mains water is not required. 

Contact: Pyon Heat Wave 01432 830 409 | www.pyonproducts.com

Volac Eco Lamb feeder

Volac Eco Lamb feeder

Manufacturer: ForsterTechnik

Feed space: Up to 240 lambs/unit – depending on the model chosen.

Price: Starts at £3,600 (including VAT) but varies on a farm-by-farm basis according to options

How it works: Warm milk replacer is fed ad lib to lambs via up to eight height-adjustable teats.

The feeder is plumbed in to a water supply, which refills a boiler within the unit. This is fitted with a thermostat to ensure water is maintained at a temperature set by the operator.

As milk is drawn by the feeding lambs, the milk supply is replenished by a built-in dispenser.

This measures the correct proportion of milk powder to mix up small quantities of a pre-selected ration, ensuring that milk is freshly prepared and at the desired temperature.

An optional milk tank heater is also available to keep milk at the optimum level. Water and milk powder rates can be configured separately via a control panel.

The unit also includes a portion counter to monitor feed volumes being dispensed to the lambs.

Cleaning is semi-automatic and water temperatures can be raised to help kill off bugs.

Key features

  • 35kg powder tank capacity
  • Feed preparation: 2.5-3 litres/min
  • Up to eight teats
  • 20-30 lambs/teat
  • Temperature-controlled boiler
  • Semi-automatic cleaning process with increased cleaning temperature
  • Height-adjustable front plate with teat bracket

Requirements: The unit needs to be attached to a constant supply of water and electricity.

Contact: Volac 0800 919 808 | www.lamlac.co.uk

Provimi Shepherdess 2

Manufacturer: Provimi

Feed space: Up to 20 lambs

Price: Prices vary according to supplier but range from £215-£234.55 (including VAT)

How it works: The system is based around a lidded bucket that sits on the ground inside the lamb pen.

Provimi Shepherdess 2

Ewe milk replacer is poured into the 12-litre tank that contains a thermostatically controlled heater.

The thermostat ensures that milk is maintained at a pre-set temperature between 22C and 32C, 24 hours a day.

Lambs drink the milk ad lib via two teats, fitted with non-return valves.

The teats are connected to the milk supply with short lengths of PVC pipe and are positioned on the rim of the tank about 15cm apart.

A second bucket is supplied in kits along with additional teats, thermostat, heater and thermometer.

Key features

  • Sits inside pen
  • Two integrated teats
  • Provides warm milk 24 hours a day
  • Milk set at a constant temperature between 22C and 32C
  • Pack contains two x 12-litre buckets, two white teats plus two firmer red teats, thermostat and thermometer
  • The feeder remains effective at minus -8C

Requirements: Electricity standard UK three-pin

Contact: List of UK stockists available via the Provimi website

Holm & Laue AD LIB Lamb Feeder

Manufacturer: Holm & Laue

Feed space: Standard six-teat model feeds up to 150 lambs. An optional extra six teats can be included to feed up to 250 lambs 

Price: £3,150-£3,600

How it works: A 50kg milk replacer hopper dispenses powder into a heated, thermostatically controlled mixing bowl.

The milk temperature is maintained at a pre-set level and delivered to the lambs on-demand, ad lib, 24 hours a day.

The standard version includes a removable stainless steel mixing bowl, designed to make cleaning simpler.

Holm & Laue AD LIB Lamb Feeder

But an optional extra includes a fully-automatic cleaning system that runs once or twice a day, according to the operator’s requirements.

Other optional features include liquid and powder dosers, supplying pre-set feed or medicinal additives to the milk ration.

A further option includes a 12-teat variant that takes the maximum capacity from 150 to 250 lambs.

Key features

  • Large 50kg powder reservoir
  • Removable stainless steel mixer bowl
  • High-capacity 12-litre mixer bowl heater
  • Plug in and ready to go — no complex system installation
  • Simple programming controls with display screen
  • Six- or 12-teat version
  • Optional feed additive dosing system

Requirements: Plumbed-in water source and electricity, rated 230V, 3kW

Contact: Netherlands 031 6 313 656 76 | www.holm-laue.de

Volac Ewe 2 and Ewe 2 Plus

Manufacturer: Volac

Feed space: Available in two sizes – 25 litre for 20 lambs or a 50 litre version for up to 40 lambs.

Price: Ewe 2 pricing starts at £225 and Ewe 2 plus at £261 (including VAT)

How it works: The 25-litre or 50-litre versions are based around lidded buckets that sit outside the lamb pen.

Both sizes include an outer bucket, containing the heater element and an inner bucket, which holds the milk.

The outer bucket is primed with enough water to submerge the heater element and the inner bucket is placed inside the other bucket.

The unit will heat milk from cold to the required temperature in about one hour, or pre-heated milk can be used.

Two silicone pipelines with filters and non-returns valves then convey the milk to two teats that are fixed to a panel inside the lamb pen.

Manual cleaning of the inner bucket, return valves and filters is required once a day.

Key features

  • Sits outside the pen, reducing spillages
  • Heats milk or maintains it at 10C-35C
  • Thermostat-controlled heater
  • Comes with fixings, two soft white and two firmer red teats minisucklers, non-return valves and silicone tubing

Requirements: Standard UK three-pin 240v socket

Contact: Volac 0800 919 808 | www.lamlac.co.uk