How to rear surplus lambs effectively

Each year, every flock in Ireland will have lambs that need to be adopted onto another ewe or be artificially reared. Deciding which route to take will depend on the availability of a suitable foster ewe and the physical condition of the lamb.

Cross fostering will only be successful if the lamb is fit and healthy; has had adequate colostrum; and is fostered onto a healthy ewe with plenty of milk and good maternal instincts. However, this is a time-consuming activity.

Key points for rearing lambs on Lamlac:
  1. Ensure lambs receive adequate colostrum within six hours of birth;
  2. Choose your feeding system. There are three main options available: bottle feeding, which is very time consuming; ad-lib via a bucket; or machine feeding. The method you choose will often depend on the number of lambs you are rearing and the facilities that you have available;
  3. Specially-formulated ewe milk replacer – such as Lamlac – is designed to be a complete diet to provide the lamb with all the energy and nutrients it needs.

Rearing surplus lambs with ad-lib feeding

When ad-lib feeding, milk replacer is fed using a teated bucket such as the Volac Ewe 2 (for up to 20 lambs) or the Ewe 2 Plus (for up to 40 lambs).

These bucket feeders are thermostatically controlled. It is recommended that newborn lambs be started on milk at 30°. But, once they are trained and drinking well, the temperature can be reduced to 18-20°.

The amount of milk replacer used is approximately 11-12kg/lamb. The Ewe 2 and Ewe 2 Plus bucket feeders sit outside the lamb rearing pen; ensuring optimum safety and avoiding wasteful spillages.

Lambs should be started on restricted warm milk until trained (1L split into four or five 200-250ml feeds per day). Training normally takes one-to-three days. Provide ad-lib access to milk once trained.

Benefits of bucket feeding:
  • Delivers faster growth rates;
  • No limit to how much or when lambs can drink;
  • Several lambs can be fed at once;
  • Milk can be fed warm or cold;
  • Milk is consumed ‘little and often’, which means less risk of digestive upsets;
  • Less labour intensive as the milk is made up in bigger volumes;
  • Relatively low set-up costs.

Disadvantage of bucket feeding:
  • Disease can spread more easily through shared teats, so hygiene is critical.

Rearing surplus lambs automatically

Using an automatic feeder – such as the Volac ECO Feeder – can dramatically cut the time spent mixing milk and feeding lambs. However, a high level of management and hygiene is essential.

Milk is consumed on a little and often basis, which results in faster growth rates and less risk of digestive upsets. The amount of milk replacer used is approximately 12-13kg/lamb.

Milk may be offered warm (39°) on a restricted basis during the early training period. But, once lambs are sucking well from the teat – on an ad-lib basis – the milk temperature should be lowered to 18-20° to reduce the risk of health problems caused by over consumption.

The machine should be cleaned daily and calibrated at least once a week and between batches of milk powder.

Benefits of automatic machine feeding:
  • Least labour-intensive surplus lamb feeding system. The machine automatically reconstitutes and dispenses milk – no manual mixing required;
  • Milk is consumed ‘little and often’, which means less risk of digestive upsets;
  • Delivers faster growth rates;
  • No limit to how much or when lambs can drink.

Disadvantages of automatic machine feeding:
  • Highest set-up costs;
  • Disease can spread more easily through shared teats, so hygiene is critical.

The Volac ECO Feeder

The ECO Feeder automatically mixes a precise volume of Volac Lamlac to a consistent, specified temperatures.

It has a hopper capacity of 35kg and up to eight outlets that can be adapted to accommodate up to 16 teats. It can feed up to 240 lambs.

An electronic heating regulator ensures the feed is always at the correct temperature. The machine is also easy to clean via a suction hose cleaning system. Click here for more information