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Stackyard News Apr 07

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    Triplet Lambs are a Mixed Blessing

Early indications are that the UK lamb crop is up this season with preliminary scan results showing a good proportion of twin and triplet lambs. “But triplet lambs are not always good news, particularly when producers are looking to finish lambs as quickly as possible and in batches of consistent weight and quality,” says ruminant manager Norman Downey from SCA NuTec.

Norman Downey from SCA NuTec

Norman Downey from SCA NuTec

“One of the main dilemmas with triplets – or with twins where the ewe is not producing sufficient milk to support two lambs – is whether to leave them all on the ewe and risk all two or three lambs falling short of their potential.

“The options of cross-fostering and bottle feeding are time consuming and hassle, especially when labour resources are already stretched. And neither allow the lamb to achieve its growth potential.”

One system of rearing orphan lambs that has proved its worth is an automated feeding system combining a feeder and a carefully balanced milk replacer. In farm trials SCA NuTec's Shepherdess orphan lamb feeding system has show consistently that lambs perform as well as those reared on a healthy ewe and there are many cases where these lambs sell at the same time and weight and attract similar prices to singles reared on the ewe.

Trial results with two groups of Texel cross lambs showed that those reared on the Shepherdess system achieved growth rates 15% higher than the control group reared on the automatic feeder and alternative milk replacer. The Shepherdess lambs were 3kg heavier at 12 weeks old and reached slaughter weight two weeks sooner than the control group.

“The reasons behind the success of our Shepherdess system are that the feeder mimics the ewe and lambs can feed in a similar way, taking lots of small meals or fewer larger meals as they please,” adds Mr Downy. “They have an ad-lib supply of warm milk, specially designed with all the necessary energy and protein plus the NuStart gut-conditioning package for growth with the minimum of setbacks.”

One feeder feeds up to 20 lambs and requires just 15 minutes twice a day to replenish milk supplies and clean the pipes.

“Even with the rearing costs taken off, there is generally a reasonable margin for a high quality lamb reared on a good automatic lamb feeding system.”

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