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How to manage surplus lambs

How to manage surplus lambs
By Lamlac - Volac 3 months ago

“However, like all successful youngstock systems, surplus lamb rearing requires attention to detail, from daily cleaning of the feeding equipment to providing light airy well drained accommodation. Unless you literally have a handful of surplus lambs, then ad lib bucket or automatic machine systems will prove cost effective; both will save labour, encourage improved growth and reduce the risk of digestive upsets. These systems offer the best alternative to the ewe", says Jackie Bradley, Volac Regional Product Manager.

To successfully rear surplus lambs you will need to consider a number of things. In this article, independent sheep consultant, Kate Philips outlines essential preparation, discusses which lamb to foster and offers a 10 point rearing plan.


Prepare a appropriate building or space - free from draughts, with good ventilation above lamb height and free drainage. A dark, poorly ventilated, outdated building is not acceptable. Also consider, heat lamps may be required.

Planning space allowance

  • Limit each group to 25 lambs maximum.
  • Prepare feeding equipment, decide whether you will use either a bucket or a machine.
  • Organise and prepare a clean dry area for milk powder storage; check equipment is in good working order and clean this includes scales, mixing and cleaning equipment.

How to choose which lamb to foster?

If a ewe has three lambs then for most farmers, the preferred option would be wet fostering of one lamb onto a single rearing ewe. Look for the lamb that is the odd one out, either the smallest of the biggest. The ewe is then left with a balanced pair.

How to choose the lamb by it’s gender?

  • With your lamb target market in mind, leave the most important lambs with their mother. If you are selling breeding stock then think which animals have priority – ewe lambs or tup lambs.
  • If selling all lambs finished or as stores, then the gender doesn’t matter
  • The growth rate of an entire ram lambs is approximately 10% faster than castrated or ewe lambs, therefor entire males may be better suited for artificial rearing and reaching slaughter weight fastest.

Artificial rearing guidelines

  • Every single foster lamb must be fed high quality colostrum, within the first six hours, and a minimum 210ml/kg bodyweight within the first 24 hours. Use artificial colostrum or defrosted ewe or cow colostrum, if the ewe does not have enough
  • Remove lambs from their mother at 24 hours and leave for a few hours to get hungry. Keep the lambs warm, draught-free and dry. Introduce gently to the teat. For Machine or ad lib bucket lambs they will need to be helped to suckle a few times in their first day.
  • Provide ad-lib milk replacer fed cold or warm - maximum 18 - 20 C. Clean out the teats, tubes and mixing bowl and bucket daily. For ad lib bucket feeders, introduce accurately mixed milk replacer, as recommended for machines, check the calibration at least weekly and between batches of milk powder. When feeding ad-lib, remember to make sure the milk does not run out, to prevent gorging when the milk is refilled.
  • Provide quality clean straw regularly, and keep bedding clean and dry throughout the rearing phase.
  • Introduce high quality creep feed ad-lib from approximately one week of age. Refresh the creep daily and never let it go stale or run out. Clean out feeders regularly.
  • Offer clean fresh straw in racks initially to provide sharp fibre to encourage rumen development. You can then change gradually from straw to good quality hay after 6 weeks.
  • Ensure you provide clean fresh water daily.
  • Keep lambs undercover and inside throughout the rearing and finishing phases to avoid a growth check associated with a change in diet and facing a significant worm challenge at grass.
  • Vaccinate lambs against clostridial diseases and pasteurella as you would for the rest of the flock.
  • Wean abruptly to avoid potential digestive upsets at approximately five weeks. Weaning guidelines: minimum 2.5 times birth weight (9 - 10kg); minimum 35 days old and eating approximately 250g solid feed daily.

Source: LamLac

#Lambing Posted in: Sheep Farming