From lambing to weaning

The positive effects of strong pasture growth during a kind Autumn have flowed through to some fantastic scanning results across the district.  

So how do we maximise the number of lambs scanned into lambs out the gate?

Ensuring our ewes are in great condition

By now we can no longer influence this (bar farmers who are later lambing), but avoiding underfeeding in the last 35 days will have a significant impact on lamb survival at birth and ewe milking ability.

Maxmising our vaccination timing

Correct vaccination timing will maximise the antibodies that lambs receive in the ewes colostrum.  For standard 5-in-1 aim for two weeks before lambing, if the weather is playing havoc try Nilvax® which has a much longer vaccination window.

Include some extra goodies

Low selenium levels will affect sheep performance and therefore lamb growth rates.  If you are unaware of your farm's status, this can be easily assessed by three to five blood samples.

Maximising lactation

  • Ewes reach peak lactation two to three weeks after lambing and 40-50% of the total milk supply is produced in the first four weeks. 
  • Ewes need to be fed well in early lactation and lambs need access to high quality pasture in the second half of lactation.  The biggest variation in lamb growth rates between farms occurs in the second half of lactation.
  • Feeding ewes to get high milk production starts before lambing with ensuring ewes don't lose much condition and being above condition score 2.5 at lambing.
  • Lambs start to change to a ruminant between three and five weeks of age and 80% of what lambs eat between docking and weaning will be grass.
  • Lambs with their mothers grazing covers of less than 1200kgDM/ha (4cm) will be working too hard to harvest the grass they need and will be forced to eat higher numbers of worm larvae compared with lambs on longer feed.   Conversely if the grass is growing faster than it can be eaten and is trying to become reproductive this can be very damaging to lamb growth rates due to the decrease in quality.

Smart weaning decisions

Weaning lambs earlier onto high quality pasture is a better option than leaving them on mum when they have to compete with her for feed.  Aim for weaning around 80 -100 days.

If you have any questions or need any advice please don't hesitate to contact one of our veterinarians.