Feeding Ewes From Lambing To Weaning

Looking forward in the production cycle the best time to achieve 400g/day + growth rates in lambs is in the first month of life. This can be achieved through optimising lactating-ewe feeding.

Around North Otago I see some orgranised farmers poking freshly lambed ewes through onto green feed (Italian usually) which must be a pretty good way of achieving these top growth rates. If you're not one of these operations with green feed up your sleeve, matching the peak milking ability of ewes (2-3 weeks after lambing) with spring grass growth is key to getting good early lamb growth rates.

Managing Low Pasture Growth

August - September 2015 has had very low soil temperatures, so I think most sheep breeding operations are going to have less feed growing than expected. Before we commit to opening all the gates and seeing what happens at weaning, what levers can we pull in this slow-cold spring scenario?

  • Apply nitrogen, especially to best paddocks, even consider applying gibberellic acid in addition. This works best in the colder shoulders of the grass growing cycle.
  • Look at early weaning of lambs onto legume dominant feed (lucerne, new clover).
  • Parasite control in ewes and lambs is more critical. If long-acting drench is not applied pre-lamb, a docking drench to younger and/or lighter ewes. Tape drench lambs pre-weaning.
  • Bail out early. Sell terminal/older ewes all counted. This may also free up space to allow a paddock or two to be sprayed out for a summer crop (rape/turnips etc). This will be handy if it turns dry again....

I'm sure most of these issues will be pondered and debated around the tailing pens over the next few weeks. Will be interested to know what you've learned and decided.

Dave Roberston BVSc, BSc

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