Machine feeders consider rearing more surplus lambs
More than 50% of sheep producers using an automatic machine to feed ewe milk replacer to surplus lambs find the practice so straightforward that they plan to rear more animals artificially during the 2018 lambing season.
The feedback comes from a recent survey of 35 farmers purchasing a Volac Eco Feeder within the last 24 months and highlights how successful artificial rearing is becoming.
“Enquiries about automatic milk feeding are at an all-time high in the sheep sector,” reports Jackie Bradley from Volac. “Sheep 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. Producers also say they see fewer digestive upsets. Most significantly, though, users are reporting a decent margin over lifetime feed of anywhere between £15 and £25 per lamb.
”But it’s not just orphan and third lambs that producers are now putting on machines. The survey shows that farmers are increasingly also taking pressure of young ewes rearing multiples to boost lamb survival rates and performance. “This is particularly important for young mothers and will help them keep growing and producing enough milk for the lambs they have left,” Ms Bradley says.
When deciding which lamb to remove from a triplet-bearing ewe, Volac nutritionists advise removing either the smallest or the largest one 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.
”Machines are available to buy directly from Volac, but Ms Bradley stresses that they are not a substitute for good husbandry. “Sound hygiene is crucial and lamb pens must be draught-free, and well drained and bedded to keep lambs as warm and dry as possible. Clean, fresh water also needs to available along with creep feed (18% crude protein) offered ad lib to encourage early intake. Lambs should be weaned abruptly at no less than five weeks of age when they are eating an average of 0.25kg of creep a day over three days,” she says.
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