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Feeding guidelines for lambs

Feeding guidelines for lambs

Introduction To Rearing Lambs

After following a guide to feeding ewes before mating and getting all the best nutritional advice for your ewes during pregnancy, the next step for a farmer is giving lambs the best start to life and maintaining good health. 

Feeding lambs is a lot different to feeding farm sheep. Your lambs will progress from feeding solely on colostrum to taking milk and then a hard feed before grazing in pastures with the rest of the sheep.

However, there is a lot more to take into consideration. The following lamb feeding guide contains some important things to know when rearing lambs.


Introducing Colostrum Soon After Being Born

Ensuring lambs get colostrum on the first day of life is essential. You should aim to give them 10% of their body weight in the first six hours. Colostrum contains immunoglobulins crucial for passive immunity. If fed early, these antibodies are absorbed into the blood supply of the newborn lamb.

Colostrum from cows can also be used. This is a fantastic starter meal substitute for lambs. It can be frozen, but be careful when defrosting it when necessary. The immunoglobulins will become denatured at temperatures higher than 50°C, so keep it below that.

Alternatively, powdered colostrum is available for feeding the lamb (and also feeding goats). It provides exemplary immunoglobulin, protein and fat levels, meaning your lambs won’t miss out on this important first feed. 

After so much effort preparing for a successful lambing season on your farm, it’s essential to carry on the excellent work by maintaining the health of your livestock.


Milk Feeding Your Lambs

Lambs prefer less milk in more feeds throughout the day because it is more in line with their innate suckling behaviour. Be prepared to feed lambs three to four times a day using multi-lamb feeders or bottles (depending on your system and the age of the lambs). To ensure less competition at feeding time, keep an eye out for slow and rapid feeders and reposition lambs into their appropriate groups.

The best approach to fattening lambs is to give them enough milk to drink, but don’t let them “guts out” and drink too much at once. If using multiple lamb feeders, keep an eye on the lambs as they feed and remove them when they start to get too full. Lambs that consume too much at once risk developing abdominal bloat.

A dependable and regular answer is a milk substitute created for lambs. As the copper and lactose levels may be too high for lambs, a calf milk substitute is not recommended. Make sure you’re correctly blending the milk by following the manufacturer’s directions and conducting regular inspections (get some kitchen scales and measuring jugs for accuracy).


Making The Switch To Hard Feeding 

Lambs can begin to graze and consume solid food as early as two weeks, but they don’t start consuming considerable amounts until about four weeks. Give some solid food on the first days (such as lamb pellets or muesli). This will ensure that the lambs become accustomed to the taste of the feed. 

Lamb creep, and other hard feeds are crucial for rumen development and successful weaning. A lamb-specific feed is preferable because it is better suited for lambs than a calf-specific feed, which can be overly rich in copper. Choose a grain-based lamb feed with a high protein content of 18–20% to promote the best possible animal growth (for easy digestion to stimulate rumen development).

Avoid feeding lambs any hard feed that contains byproducts like palm kernel, or tapioca since they dislike the taste and will consume less of it. Maintaining clean feed troughs and avoiding dispensing large amounts of hard feed are sensible choices because excess feed can get musty and become polluted by vermin or birds. It is advisable to provide a little bit of fresh food daily and increase the quantity until intake is met.


Restricted Feeding Schedule For Lambs

The goal of lamb feeding is to provide the lambs with adequate milk (at the proper concentration) over a 24-hour period. This is a preferable alternative if you can feed smaller amounts more regularly. With tiny lambs, it is unquestionably a better choice and can lessen the chance of bloat.

Restricted feeding can lead to more significant energy absorption due to increased diet digestibility. Restricting feed can also allow for a greater retention time for feedstuffs within the digestive system, thus allowing a greater probability of protein digestion and absorption. However, restrictive feeding may come at a greater expense due to the additional labour involved.

For example, if you are dealing with small lambs that may not take 600ml per feed from day 14, consider the following feeding programme.

Starting on day 14;

  • Feed three times at 400 ml (instead of two times at 600 ml) for two to three days. 
  • Then switch to three feeds of 450 ml for another two to three days (up to day 20).
  • Finally, up to 500 ml three times a day, until the lamb is about 22 or 23 days old.

You should be able to return to the recommended feeding rates at this point, which is 700 ml twice daily.


In Summary…

Giving your lambs the best nutritional start in life will boost the chances of a healthy flock and your operation’s profitability. Preparing yourself properly for this critical period after lambing can be the difference between success and disaster.

Whether you’re searching for feed that covers all the essential lamb, sheep, goat or deer nutrition, give Sharpes Farm Feeds a call.

When you want to know your animals are getting the best nutrition every time, you can rely on Sharpes Farm Feeds. Contact a member of our team now.

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