Weaning Orphan Lambs
Lambs are born with an immature digestive system. They are unable to digest anything but milk in the first stage of their life. The lambs digestive system must be fully developed before they can be moved from a milk based diet to a grass based diet.
The weight of the lambs when weaning is a more important consideration than the age.
Orphan lambs can be weaned from the milk bottle at around 25 to 30 pounds.
They usually reach this weight when they are 30 to 45 days old.
Orphan lambs should not be weaned unless the are drinking water and eating solids.
Its best to wean abruptly never dilute the milk replacer.
Offer the lamb good quality hay and access to grass at 2 to 3 weeks of age so that their digestive system develops properly.
The lambs may be introduced to lamb creep feed at a week old. They will properly not eat it but the will lick it and become familiar with it. Change the creep feed everyday as it can be a breading ground for bacteria.
The lambs must have access to clean fresh water.
Never give the lamb weaker formula when weaning you can reduce the amount of bottles per day but not the quality of the bottle.
A sign that the weaning is successful is when the lamb is chewing their cud and they are producing pebbled looking droppings.
The lambs should ideally be 3 times their birth weight before they are weaned.
They should be eating 250 to 300 grams of pellets once they have been weaned.
You can also wean the lambs gradually by reducing the amounts of bottle feeds a day until the lamb is completely weaned to pellets.
Don't wean your lamb too early. If you try to wean the lamb before their ruman is working properly they will starve to death.
The weaning of lambs occurs when they are removed from their milk diet onto a diet of grains and forage.
The weaning is stressful on the ewe and the lamb.
Common rule of thumb is that the lamb can be weaned from the ewe at 45lb or at 60 days old.
If the lambs are not weaned correctly they will be under performers.
When deciding when to wean the weight of the lamb is a greater concern than the age.
Some lambs are weaned very early at 14 days while others are weaned naturally staying with the ewe 6 months or more.
Weaning weight is affected by the birth weight of the lamb, the milk of the ewe and the genetic potential of the lamb.
You need to take into account your target market, grain supplies and price, the available pasture when deciding your weaning strategy.
Ewes milk production peaks at 3 to 4 weeks and by 10 weeks they are producing half of this.
Newly weaned lambs should be closely monitored. Coccidiosis is most common in newly weaned lambs.
When ewes and lambs are separated they should not be close enough to hear each other.
Siblings should be kept together and other groupings of lambs.
The ewes should be removed from the lambs as there will be less stress on the lamb if its in a familiar environment.
This is weaning after 14 days but before 90 days.
The size of the lamb is more important than the age of the lambs when weaning.
When you separate the lambs from the ewes this means you have two groups to manage.
Enterotoxemia is most common in early weaned lambs its also known as overeating disease.
Early weaning from the ewe will be a success if the lamb is drinking water and eating enough dry grain.
With early weaning
Cull ewes can be sold earlier.
Lambs can go to market earlier.
Weaned lambs are efficient feed converters.
Ewes can return to breed conditions sooner and it reduces the lactation stress on ewes.
Its not necessary to castrate ram lambs.
The problems associated with early weaning are that its very stressful on the lamb and ewe, ewes are more prone to mastitis and more dry feed and pastures are consumed.
If your ewe suffers from mastitis she may not be productive in the future. If you want to reduce the risk of mastitis in the early weaned ewes you should aim to stop their milk production. You should remove grain from their diet 2 weeks before weaning. Feeding straw a few days before weaning will reduce the production of milk. Don't put the ewe out in high quality pasture just after weaning as this will increase milk production.
This is a natural weaning and occurs when the lamb is around 6 months old.
Most ewes naturally wean their lambs by walking away from the lambs when the lamb attempts to suck on them.
It is more natural than early weaning and reduces the risk of mastitis on the ewe.
The longer the lamb is with the ewe the more they will learn. The lambs will learn where to drink water, where to forage, how to find shade all the flock behaviour needed.
The lambs can use the available forage. Having the lambs on pasture rather than on grains is usually more economical.
The disadvantages of late weaning are that lambs must compete with the ewes for forage. Out on the pasture there is more of a risk of predators. There is more risk of worm larvae infections. The male lambs need to be castrated at 3 to 4 months if still with the mother. Castrated lambs do not grow as fast as non castrated lambs