Demand for weaned lambs could be high this season as grazers look for alternatives to beef finishing and drystock contracts because of concerns around Mycoplasma bovis.
Interest in rearing more lambs by hand is therefore likely to be strong in both the commercial and lifestyle sectors. Many traditional commercial sheep farmers rear or sell one lamb from a set of triplets in addition to rearing orphans.
Young lamb supplies are increasing from sheep milking operations that are especially keen to find outlets for male lambs. Opportunities are therefore developing nationwide for commercial specialist lamb rearers through to lifestyle farmers looking to build a friendly hand reared flock or fill the freezer.
Encouraging intake of grain-based hard feed can help stimulate rumen function in milk-fed lambs, which reduces stress at weaning off milk and reduces the cost of bought-in milk replacer.
For years, NRM has resisted the temptation of adding the highly effective coccidiostat monensin sodium (e.g. as Rumensin®) to mainstream calf and lamb starter feeds because it can be so dangerous to dogs and horses if consumed by accident. Recently a more cost-effective form of an alternative coccidostat for lambs, which is much safer to non-target species – decoquinate (Deccox®) – has become available. The inclusion of Deccox in NRM’s new Lamb Start Mix and Lamb Performance Pellets aids in the protection of coccidiosis for large scale, repeat lamb rearers without increasing the risk to companion animals for those first time and occasional lamb rearers with potentially a lower risk of coccidiosis. NRM’s new Lamb Start Mix and Lamb Performance Pellets have been designed with performance and animal health in mind. Grain based with high quality protein, both contain a blend of essential oils, trace minerals and vitamins.
Available in both 20kg and 10kg bags, Lamb Start Mix is a textured feed containing lucerne to help stimulate intake in young lambs. Lamb Performance Pellets are a flexible option, which can be fed from day one right through to feedingout in paddocks. Both can also be fed as a creep feed for lambs on ewes that need some extra nutrition. As a creep feed, they can be offered in a trough protected by a fence or gate, which lambs can get through but ewes cannot.
Lamb Performance Pellets can also be fed through some free-access ewe feeders that have a bar over the feed tray, which can be lowered to preclude ewes but allows access to lambs.
Lambs can be weaned off milk when they are about 10-15kg (depending on breed) and when they are consuming at least 200 grams of lamb hard feed per day. The intake of the hard feed is critical as it is a reflection of how well their rumen is developed.
Be prepared to hold back lambs that are not meeting the weaning criteria. Ideally continue feeding a lamb hard feed to the weaned lambs for at least the next month and longer if pasture quality and/or quantity is lacking.
For further information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist.
Article supplied by Dr. Rob Derrick, Nutritionist.