There are a number of steps that have to be taken in weaning lambs. One of them is to have the environment that it will take place in. This environment needs to be clean, well ventilated and away from their mothers, but not too far away. By having the weaning pen close helps to reduce the amount of stress that the young lambs experience.
Weaning is the practice of removing lambs from a milk diet provided by the ewe (natural or foster rearing) or milk replacement. From this milk diet, the animals move onto forage or grain based diets. "Early Weaning" is a relative term, but implies weaning at any time after 21 days of age. As with any management practice involving a sudden change in social structure (separation of ewe and lambs) or changes of diet and environment, this period will be stressful, and is a critical point for good health and general management practices.
In the weaning pen a number of things are needed. There needs to be fresh water, clean bedding, and creep feed. By having fresh water in the pen at all times reduces health risk factors. The same is true for having clean bedding. Creep feeding is a management practice of making supplemental feed available only to nursing lambs. Creep feeding is desirable because: lambs gain as much as a third to half a pound per day more when their milk diet is supplemented with grain, the lambs are ready for market 1 to 2 months earlier, thus earlier marketing is adapted to a higher market for spring lambs, and the lambs are not allowed to go to spring pasture, thus permitting more ewes on the same pasture and reducing internal parasites in the lambs. A creep should be placed in a convenient location and designed so that ewes cannot enter. For early lambs, the creep should be in a sunny, warm, dry location. A cool shady location is best for late lambs. Lambs should have creep feed available when they are a week old, although they will not consume much until they are 2 to 3 weeks of age. Whether lambs are hand-fed or self-fed is the decision of the producer. Most lambs are hand-fed, however self-feeding requires better management but is more economical.
Rules of Thumb for Weaning
1. Clean, fresh water available -- always
2. Creep feeding before weaning will encourage a smoother transition
3. Lambs may be weaned at 21 days of age in artificial rearing systems
4. Provide a very high quality, high protein diet at weaning (18 to 25% protein). Some animal or other very high quality protein is required. Utilize partially processed grains in weaning systems; processing may be discontinued as animals reach 50 lb. body weight
5. The diet must be highly palatable, more so than in any other stage of life. Molasses may be useful to minimize dust and sorting, and may improve palatability. A commercial pelleted diet may be considered to reduce sorting, but intakes tend to be lower than with molasses enhanced, rolled grain diets
6. Urea (if fed) must not be fed until two weeks after weaning, unless late weaned and animals have consumed solid feed to allow rumen development.
7. Urea should not be fed at more than 1% of ration dry matter (DM); only feed grade urea should be used
8. Consult and follow the guidelines of a lamb ration program as set out by a qualified nutritionist
Steps to Weaning
1. Plan weaning protocol, timing and facilities 14 to 21 days prior to weaning
2. Ensure animals are consuming creep feed (1% of Body Weight e.g. if lambs weigh 20 lb. they should consume 20 x 0.01 = 0.2 pound)
3. Ensure animals are utilizing water
4. Remove milk replacer or ewe (weaning)
5. Feed high protein ration (18 to 25% CP); sample diet.
(Information from ANSC 442 Purdue University)
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