Rearing surplus lambs effectively

Each year every flock will have some lambs that either need to be adopted onto another ewe or be artificially reared. Deciding which route to take will depend on the availability of a suitable foster mother and the physical condition of the lamb.

Lambs on feeder

Cross fostering will only be successful if the lamb is fit and healthy, has had adequate colostrum, and is fostered onto a healthy ewe with plenty of milk and good maternal instincts. But this is time-consuming to do well.

The reality is that lambs can now be reared very successfully artificially and without all the inherent practical problems of fostering onto an unwilling ewe. With good husbandry, organisation and the right milk replacer, there’s no doubt you can produce good quality lambs, as well as save hours of effort and hassle.

Key pointers for rearing lambs on Lamlac:

1. Ensure lambs receive adequate colostrum within six hours of birth
2. Choose your feeding system. There are three main options available: bottle feeding, which is very time consuming; ad lib via bucket or machine feeding. The method you choose will often depend on the number of lambs you are rearing and the facilities that you have available.
3. Specially formulated ewe milk replacer such as Lamlac is designed to be a complete diet providing the lamb with all the energy and nutrients it needs.

Find out more about Lamlac

Rearing surplus lambs with ad-lib feeding 

With ad lib feeding milk replacer is fed using a teated bucket such as the Volac Ewe 2 (for up to 20 lambs) or the Ewe 2 Plus (for up to 40 lambs). These bucket feeders are thermostatically controlled. It is recommended that newborn lambs be started on milk at 30°C, but once they are trained and drinking well the temperature can be reduced to 18-20°C. The amount of milk replacer used is approximately 11-12kg per lamb. The Ewe 2 and Ewe 2 Plus bucket feeders sit outside the lamb rearing pen, ensuring optimum safety and avoiding wasteful spillages.

Start lambs on restricted warm milk until trained (1 litre spilt into four or five 200-250ml feeds per day). Training normally takes 1-3 days. Allow ad lib access to milk once trained.

Benefits of bucket feeding:

• Delivers faster growth rates
• No limit to how much or when lambs can drink
• Several lambs can be fed at once
• Milk can be fed warm or cold
• Milk is consumed ‘little and often’, which means less risk of digestive upsets
• Less labour intensive as the milk is made up in bigger volumes
• Relatively low set up costs

Disadvantage of bucket feeding:

• Disease can spread more easily through shared teats, so hygiene is critical

Find out more about the EWE 2 Feeder.

Rearing surplus lambs automatically 

Using an automatic feeder such as the Volac ECO Feeder can dramatically cut the time spent mixing milk and feeding lambs. However, a high level of management and hygiene is essential. Milk is consumed little and often, which means faster growth rates and less risk of digestive upsets. The amount of milk replacer used is approximately 12-13kg per lamb.

Milk may be offered warm (39°C) on a restricted basis during the early training period, but once lambs are sucking well from the teat on an ad lib basis the milk temperature should be reduced to 18-20°C to reduce the risk of health problems caused by over consumption. The machine should be cleaned daily and calibrated at least once a week, and between batches of milk powder.

Benefits of automatic machine feeding:

• The least labour-intensive surplus lamb feeding system because the machine automatically reconstitutes and dispenses milk – no manual mixing required
• Milk is consumed ‘little and often’, which means less risk of digestive upsets
• Delivers faster growth rates
• No limit to how much or when lambs can drink

Disadvantages of automatic machine feeding:

• Highest set up costs
• Disease can spread more easily through shared teats, so hygiene is critical

The Volac ECO Feeder

The ECO Feeder automatically mixes a precise volume of milk powder to a consistent, specified temperature.
•   Hopper capacity of 35kg
•   Up to 8 outlets that can be adapted to accommodate up to 16 teats
•  Feeds up to 240 lambs
•   Electronic heating regulator: ensures the feed is always at the correct temperature
•     Easy cleaning via a suction hose cleaning system

Find out more about the Volac ECO Feeder

Volac's Förster-Technik Auto Eco Lamb Feeder

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