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“Bummer” Lambs….What’s That?

Feeding A Bummer After Supper

Over the weekend we had our family birthday supper for our February birthdays. At the conclusion, I began to feed the four bummer lambs. Somehow a picture was taken and I had to post it. A number of people asked, “What is a ‘bummer’?”

A bummer lamb is one that is raised entirely or partially away from a mother. They come from a variety of situations.

Most often, bummers are the smallest lamb or lambs resulting from a set of triplets or quadruplets. Most ewes are able to raise twins without an issue and a few even have enough milk for triplets, if they are supplemented with grain.

There are also times, specifically with ewe lambs and older ewes that may have lost a half, when the ewe is unable to produce enough milk for two lambs and so a twin may become a bummer.

On rare occasion, we may lose a ewe, in which case, all of her lambs become bummers.

When a lamb becomes a bummer, if we are experiencing cold weather, they spend a day or two at the house, on the back porch, getting fed by bottle four to five times a day. Then they get moved to a special pen in the barn with a self feeding milk bucket. The bucket has eight nipples and is filled daily, with a full pen or every other day with a few.

Lamb Bar

Some bummers are able to be grafted, accepted by another ewe, other than their mom. Ideally, we can take the afterbirth from a new single lamb and wrap it on the bummer, so they smell like the newborn. If done immediately upon parturition, success rates are fairly high.

Suffolk Ewe and Lamb

Another opportunity for the bummer occurs when we lose a lamb, to coyotes, lions or on rare occasion, pneumonia. If that occurs and we have a bummer near the same size, we will skin the dead lamb and put the hide on the bummer, like a coat. This tends to work well with the Hampshires and the crossbreds, but a 50:50 shot with the Suffolks.

So, for those who were wondering what a bummer was….. :-)

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  1. February 29, 2012 at 5:37 AM

    Learn something new everyday. Great post!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 29, 2012 at 6:58 AM

      Thank you! :-)

  2. February 29, 2012 at 5:39 AM

    Bet the word came from someone saying, “bummer, that ewe doesn’t have enough milk for all the lambs” or “it’s a bummer being the runt when the milk is running out.” ;)

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 29, 2012 at 6:59 AM

      LOL…like the origin :-)

  3. February 29, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    Janice, I like that word origin!!
    (but I think the term came from the fact that bummers go around trying to ‘bum’ a drink from other ewes, usually from the rear, which makes it easy to spot the little buggers…er…bummers)

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 29, 2012 at 6:59 AM

      Agree with you on Janice’s origin, especially her second one :-) , but believe you are correct.

    • March 1, 2012 at 12:20 PM

      Bummer. I hate being wrong. LOL.

  4. Kim
    February 29, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    I raised many orphans-30 one year! They were extra income, taught my children responsibility!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 29, 2012 at 6:58 AM

      Excellent opportunity :-)

  5. February 29, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    Love the picture, and the article. I do have a question. I have seen different pictures, and they lambs were black, are all lambs born with black wool?

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 29, 2012 at 6:57 AM

      Most “black faced” breeds have lambs born with dark wool, some however are lighter to white. Most “white faced” breeds have lambs that are born nearly white…with a few exceptions.

  6. Jim Dunbar
    February 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    For your next trick Jeff, you should discuss a “Leppy, or Bummer” calf. The same principles apply as with sheep. However, while a ewe is comfortable with twins or maybe even triplets, a cow will most often reject the smaller calf if she has twins, as she will not recognize it as her own because they are geared mentally for single births.

  7. February 29, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Feeling kinda sheepish but I just learned a bunch about raising lambs. :)

  8. Bill Russell
    February 29, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Once had a renter @ the ranch want to take care of a bummer lamb. He had never been around livestock but really wanted to do it. We did have to tell him that throwing a diaper on it & taking it grocery shopping @ Vons one night wasn’t a good idea.

  9. Vieva Lathrop
    February 29, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    My mom has two bummer lambs she is feeding right now. They raise Katahdin Hair Sheep.

  10. March 2, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Sad…how in the animal world any “baby” that is “off” will get put aside. But, THAT is the animal world. It is NOT about feelings and emotion. It’s NOT a bummer that you take care of these lambs, Jeff…

  11. March 6, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    I love your picture of the lamb in the house! We just had a calf in our basement a couple weeks ago because it was born in the snow and we were trying to warm it up to survive. I’ve never really been around sheep, but we do the same things with our cattle if needed.

  12. March 13, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Very interesting.

  13. May 2, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    I found what you said to be very interesting. I learn a few new things about how to get another mom to except a lamb that is not truly her’s. Thanks for the great info.

  14. s schor
    July 9, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    I love the home and the children and the teacup where your wife had a cup of tea…the sticky notes to remind you all of something. What a sweet family/home. I have a small farm and raise chickens and cats and dogs and most importantly children. We would love livestock but have no fund for fencing right now. Wonderful life on a farm. I love sheep. Reminds me of the 23rd Psalm.

  15. July 16, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    I was very blessed to read your post and I am sharing a link to it on my blog. I was doing a study on Mephibosheth for our Jesus Sprouts class and relating it to being lame or a bummer. This was a real ruby find!!! Thanks be to God for you. God’s grace, peace, light, and love to you always in Jesus’ service Doreen O:)

  16. April 5, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    How about lambs touched right after birth by human hands…disrupting their scent….and causing the mother to disown them?

    • April 7, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      In 40+ years I have never seen this occur. “Disowning” of lambs most often occurs with ewe lambs, without any “interference” by human contact.

  1. March 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM
  2. March 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM
  3. July 16, 2013 at 8:28 AM

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