Especially in spring, large flocks of sheep are not uncommon, particularly in rural areas. The ewes are often accompanied by their little lambs – an idyllic sight, but one that is usually short-lived. This is because following the so-called colostrum phase, in which the lambs still feed on the milk of the ewes, the lambs are then fed on replacement milk. The ewe can now be milked several times a day and its milk used for the production of sheep milk products.
Raising lambs is not child’s play
Even for experienced shepherds, raising lambs on replacement milk is a demanding and time-consuming task. After all, the portions here must be neither too small nor too large. Apart from this, however, the conditions immediately after birth also play a role in determining whether lamb rearing is promising. Under good rearing conditions, a healthy lamb gains about 350 grams of weight per day. Constant documentation of the weight development of the individual lambs (compared to birth weight) provides a good indication of the amount of milk required for subsequent feeding with replacement milk.
Ideal starting conditions for lamb rearing
It is advisable to separate the ewes from the rest of the flock for a while shortly before confinement. This not only allows the ewes to give birth to their lambs undisturbed and stress-free. In addition, older lambs often become “milk predators”, displacing younger members of their species in order to obtain the rich colostrum themselves. For this reason, it makes sense to reunite lambs and ewes with the entire flock at a later date. Initially, the newborn lambs should be reunited with other lambs of the same age instead. In this way, they get used to life in the flock on the one hand, but can find their mother more quickly due to the small group size.
Feeding and rearing with replacement milk
If the lamb is separated from its mother after the colostrum phase, it must be ensured that it can actually handle the artificial teat. It may be necessary to accustom the lamb to the teat or for a short time with a so-called milk bottle. As sheep are herd animals, the lamb should not be kept individually during this time. At the beginning of lambing without a dam, 5 lambs of the same age, stage of development and vitality should be kept together in a small flock. Feeding then takes place via a bucket with five suckling points in the form of “nuggis”. This allows the lambs to start drinking at the same time.
The right rearing milk
After separation from the ewes, the newborn lambs should receive four meals daily over a period of 3 months. The quantity in the drinking bucket should contain an average of 300 milliliters of milk per lamb per meal. With exactly 5 lambs, this would correspond to an amount of 1.5 liters. A mixture of lamb milk powder and water or fresh cow’s milk can be used as a substitute milk.
The ideal temperature for feeding is 41 degrees. The milk should be fed immediately at this temperature. Excessive amounts of feeding can result in severe and life-threatening diarrhea in lambs. This can also happen if a lamb consumes more milk during a meal than the other animals in the flock.
Monitor lamb feeding
To prevent the occurrence of diarrhea during lambing, it is advisable to closely monitor lamb feeding. If individual lambs drink slowly or not at all, intervention is needed, as well as for greedy, rowdy drinkers. In addition, lambs also need solid food after just a few days to develop a healthy rumen. Roughage such as hay and silage should be given as well as the first concentrated feed.
Conclusion on lamb rearing
In general, raising lambs is considered laborious and requires a great deal of time and expertise. Only after three months with an average weight of 30 kilograms do lambs no longer require milk and can be brought together in larger flocks.
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