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    Rearing Surplus Lambs to Improve Flock Margins
27/03/08

Tighter lamb supplies are set to impact on the coming season’s marketplace and strengthen prices for earlier lambs, says Volac International’s Maggie Gould.

lambs on feeder
“FMD and Bluetongue have catalysed farmers’ decision to quit sheep production and according to MLC’s latest forecast, lamb slaughter numbers are down 200,000, or 1.4% on the year.

“Add to that figure a suggested reduction in mutton and sheepmeat production is set to fall by almost 2.5% on 2007,” she says. “Furthermore, while exports are likely to be up on the year and imports remain identical, the Commission forecasts that the total supplies of sheep meat to the domestic market to fall by 3.4%.

“While all farmers will welcome the forecast trends, returns will continue to remain very slim. With the increasing likelihood of strong early season lamb prices, rearing surplus lambs is one obvious way of helping to improve overall margins for early lambing flocks. Lambs must be introduced to an efficient and cost effective system,” Maggie said.

“Good husbandry is key, along with a system which offers high quality milk replacer, such as Volac Lamlac, on a little and often basis in order to reduce the risk of digestive upsets, encourage faster growth rates and save time at one of the most hectic periods.”

 

Rearing surplus lambs

Surplus lambs should have the very best start in life if they’re to be reared successfully, says ADAS’s sheep consultant, Kate Phillips. Adopting the following ten point surplus lamb plan will ensure a well scheduled routine that will pay dividends in saving labour and lives.

  • Use your scanning results; they’re vital in planning the likely numbers and for setting up a clear and effective system.
  • Feed a high quality diet with high levels of energy and protein to ensure good sized lambs and a rich supply of colostrum.
  • Dip all lamb navels soon after birth in a strong iodine solution. Keep the immediate environment clean and hygienic.
  • Ensure all lambs get a good supply of colostrum within six hours of birth (50ml/kg body weight per feed). Leave them with the ewe for a minimum of 24 hours, until the navel is dry. If necessary, lambs should be supervised suckling to ensure sufficient colostrum intake.
  • Do not choose weak or sickly lambs for artificial rearing.
  • Take the spare lamb from the ewe and bottle feed on milk replacer for 48 hours before introducing to group pens.
  • Put lambs into group pens and take them to the teats on the ad lib bucket or machine to teach them to suckle. You may need to repeat several times in the first day to ensure lambs are confident drinkers.
  • Introduce creep and a clean dry source of long forage, either hay or straw, at around one week old.
  • Keep all milk feeding equipment very clean.
  • Vaccinate against clostridia and pasteurella at four to six weeks old. Inject with a booster four weeks later.

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