Meryl Asbury farms 350 ewes in the hills of Lancashire and says that having a relatively small flock should not put farmers off investing in feeding technology for rearing orphan lambs.
Mrs Asbury farms her 350 ewes, a mix of Dalesbred and Cheviots on the Abbeystead Estate and used a Volac Eco Feeder for the first time this year, in combination with Lamlac milk powder to raise her 20 orphan lambs.
The Eco Feeder is an automatic machine, which mixes small portions of ewe milk replacer for lambs as required. It is able to feed up to 240 lambs, but Mrs Asbury insists that this shouldn’t put smaller farms off investing in the technology.
“The feeder had been on the wish list for a long time, but we decided to splash out this year and what a lifesaver it’s been! Once we got the lambs trained onto the teat they were away. We didn’t lose a single lamb and had no pot bellies either. And I can’t tell which lambs were raised on the feeder now they’re in the field with the others. They act more like lambs that have been raised in the field than orphan lambs fed with a bottle; they’re not as needy and still retain a bit of distance from us,” she says.
Meryl stresses that although they may be considered a smaller farm – with a lot less lambs to feed than the machine can cope with – it was still an important investment for her and her husband Peter that they felt was more than justified.
“The feeder just took all the stress out of lambing for us. We didn’t have to worry about getting back to feed the lambs if we were caught up with something else. And we didn’t worry about making the decision to take a triplet off. It went beyond my expectations.
“Some farmers seem reluctant to spend money, especially when there’s a perception that orphan lambs just die anyway, but this machine is worth it, even if you’ve only got small numbers. You aren’t really losing money because lambs that may have died don’t. We had a very premature lamb born this year that usually wouldn’t have survived, but it just drank little and often from the fresh, warm milk mixed by the machine, and it did really well.”
Meryl set her orphan lamb pens up in a barn and a company representative came out to help get the Eco Feeder set up and calibrated.
“The service from Volac is great. They come out and do all the setting up. All we had to do was put the Lamlac milk powder in and go. We can always ring up if we have a problem and it’s useful to have that personal contact at the end of the phone.
“We mark the lambs by age, but keep them in pens based on size, so the bigger lambs don’t bully the smaller ones off the teat. We usually wean the lambs at five weeks, but it was six or seven weeks this year due to the weather. We put them into a small paddock behind the house and they get plenty of fresh creep and wheat straw, which they’ve had in the pens with them since the beginning.”
Alongside her lamb feeding technology, Meryl also has an impressive sheep handling system. Set up in a barn with a permanent race incorporating automatic weighing scales and shedding gate, the system also has an EID reader with software to record individual life history and other important details, such as breeding and medication.
Through crossing the Dalesbred ewes to a Teeswater ram, Mrs Asbury breeds Masham lambs which she sells at market as stores throughout the summer. As all ewes lamb outside on the in-bye, Meryl is hoping for an easy winter and spring to help the ewes and lambs thrive this coming lambing season.
Lamlac milk powder testimonial
“We had absolutely no stomach upsets in the lambs this year, and I put that down to the excellent quality of the Lamlac milk powder. We’ve used powder before that caused problems and didn’t suit all the lambs, so it is important to use good quality powder to limit the chance of scouring and digestive problems. The powder mixed well in the machine, and the lambs thrived on it.”