Maintain lamb performance post weaning

Despite reliable spring grass growth and favourable conditions leading to strong lamb performance, producers are being urged to carefully manage finishing lambs post weaning as grass quality diminishes.

Lambs are reported as currently being two to three weeks ahead of previous years, so it is important finished lambs are managed correctly to counteract any detrimental growth checks that could impede on this advantage, warns David Thornton, Rumenco Technical Manager.

“Farmers realise that grazing quality falls at this time of year, with a dip in palatability and digestibility. The added loss of the nutrition from the ewes’ milk post weaning inevitably leads to lambs requiring supplementation to be able to maintain growth rates.”

The weaning process is a stressful time for lambs, and can add to the decline in growth rates caused by the change in grazing quality. “Many farmers ‘wean lambs’ from the ewes, instead of visa versa, adding to the stress levels for lambs as they are put onto fresh pasture and have a new environment to contend with,” cautions David.

David identifies that while lambs do generally experience a growth check post weaning, correctly managing this and ensuring the energy and protein components of the diet are meeting the requirements will minimise the negative effect. “As grazing quality drops, with declining dry matter (DM) and metabolisable energy (ME) content, lambs require alternative sources of energy and protein through supplementations to support growth and development.

“Bolstering lamb diets is likely to benefit lamb development and speed up time to finish,” says David.

He recommends supplementing lambs with block nutrition to provide additional energy, protein and micro-nutrition. The Rumevite Quality Lamb Block contains 12.5 MJ of metabolisable energy and 18% protein, and is an extremely palatable supplement. “This is important for lambs that have not previously had additional nutrition through creep feed or alternative supplementation.

“Training lambs that have not previously had access to feed blocks can be done relatively easily by placing blocks out while the lambs are still running with the ewes,” explains David. “I would suggest a few days prior to weaning would be sufficient.”

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