FARMING MATTERS: Study into rearing surplus lambs

Surplus lambs reared on performance-formulated lamb milk replacer perform just as well as lambs running naturally with the ewe
Surplus lambs reared on performance-formulated lamb milk replacer perform just as well as lambs running naturally with the ewe

We lamb in the spring, but for farmers who are looking ahead to the Easter market, indoor lambing is now underway.

We always hope for twins, are happy with a healthy single, but triplets can cause extra work.

It is hard, but not impossible, for a ewe to rear triplets, but there is usually always one who is smaller and therefore less likely to grow as well as his or her siblings.

So many farmers will take a triplet away and either mother it up with a ewe who has lost her own lamb or rear it on the bucket.

A study carried out by IBERS, Aberystwyth University, reports that the use of a colostrum alternative followed by good quality lamb milk replacer can result in successful rearing of surplus lambs

The trials used performance related lamb milk replacer, based on whey protein from cow’s milk, and found that the surplus lambs did just as well as those running naturally with their mother.

Volac nutritionist Abi Erian said: “Basically, you have three options come lambing time: you either sell your extra lambs to someone else to rear, foster your surplus lambs onto a single bearing ewe or artificially rear them on milk replacer.

“If you intend to rear as many as you can to maximise your finished lamb sales, it’s good practice to take any third and fourth lambs off their mothers. This will help boost lamb survival rates and performance, and take the pressure off ewes trying to rear multiples. This is particularly important for young mothers and will help her keep growing and producing enough milk for the lambs she has left.”

Ms Erian advised removing either the smallest or largest lamb to leave a balanced pair, but that whichever lamb is chosen it must be sucking well, have been with its mother for 24 hours after birth and have received a good supply of colostrum.

Good husbandry and hygiene is also vital in caring for surplus lambs, providing draught free, well bedded pens and creep feed.