Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lambs perform well on ewe milk replacer – but care needed

February 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Surplus lambs reared on performance-formulated lamb milk replacer do just as well as lambs running naturally with the ewe, suggests a study.

The use of a colostrum alternative followed by good lamb milk replacer based on whey protein from cow’s milk facilitates the successful rearing of surplus lambs, according to research carried out at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

Lambs reared on milk replacer reached similar weaning weights to their naturally-reared counterparts. When killed out, both carcass weight and conformation were comparable to that of lambs reared on the ewe, despite a slightly lighter body weight at slaughter.

Automatic feeding

The results will be encouraging for the many sheep producers who have invested recently in automatic feeding of surplus lambs, says Volac. Enquiries about automatic milk feeding are at an all-time high in the sheep sector, it adds.

Like calf rearers, farmers are undoubtedly attracted by the labour-saving benefits and the fact that machine-rearing frees up time to focus on other important jobs. But they also report faster growth rates because there is no limit to how much or when the lambs can drink.

Volac nutritionist Abi Erian said it made good sense to plan ahead for lambing this season and re-examine current surplus lamb rearing practices.

She said: “Basically, you have three options come lambing time: you either sell your extra lambs to someone else to rear, foster your surplus lambs onto a single-bearing ewe or artificially rear them on milk replacer.”

Survival rates

Producers who intended to rear as many as possible to maximise your finished lamb sales should take any third and fourth lambs off their mothers, said Ms Erian. This would help boost lamb survival rates and performance, and take the pressure off ewes trying to rear multiples.

“This is particularly important for young mothers and will help her keep growing and producing enough milk for the lambs she has left.”

When deciding which lamb to remove from a triplet-bearing ewe, Ms Erian advised removing either the smallest or the largest to leave a balanced pair. “Whichever lamb is chosen it must be sucking well, been with its mother for 24 hours after birth and have received a good supply of colostrum, particularly in the first six hours of life.”

Although machine rearing can save substantial time and rearing hassle, Volac stress that it is certainly no substitute for good husbandry. Clean, fresh water must be made available along with creep feed (18% crude protein) offered ad lib to encourage early intake.

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