‘Triplet lambs may cause management problems on sheep farms’

Higher lamb crops in 2016 and the increased number of expected triplets could lead to management problems on many sheep farms, according to UCD’s Tommy Boland.

Speaking at the recent ASA Sheep Technology Training day held on UCD’s Lyons Estate, the UCD Lecturer said that as litter size increases the number of triplet lambs in the flock will also rise.

“You are left with the option of turning the ewe out with three lambs, cross fostering, or artificially rearing these lambs,” he said.

Boland said that triplet lambs are feared on many farms, but if the ewe is adequately fed these lambs will hit birth weights of 4.5kg.

He said that systems of artificially rearing lambs can be profitable, but there is a high level of management required to make a success of these systems.

Boland discussed the research that had been carried out in UCD to examine the growth rates of artificially rearing lambs.

From 24 hours of age the lambs were offered ad-lib milk replacer, from seven days of age they were offered ab-lib access to concentrates feed.

He said that these lambs were weaned on the basis of their concentrate intake.

“Once lambs get about 250g/day of concentrate intake, they well perform well post-weaning, below that rumen development is not adequate to support performance post-weaning.

“These lambs were weaned at six weeks of age at about 22kg live weight, so in six weeks they had reached half there target slaughter weight,” he said.

He said that the level of performance dropped following weaning and it took the lambs approximately 15 weeks to reach a slaughter weight of 44kg.

Boland also said that colostrum is very important for artificially reared lambs, as it can have a big impact on their performance post-weanling.

He said that lambs which received colostrum within the first 24 hours of birth had a higher average daily weight gain and were slaughtered 21 days earlier than those fed a colostrum replacement product.