Supply level of grass to decide date for weaning
Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00
Lambs born before St Patrick's Day are coming up to weaning time. Grass supply level will influence whether you should delay or advance the weaning date.
If grass was plentiful, and lambs were thriving, my inclination would be to leave lambs with their mothers for a bit longer. You can try to get more of them off to the factory before the stress and growth check that comes with weaning.
But if grass is scarce and you have some nice aftergrass, rape, typhon or stubble turnips coming available, then I'd wean.
The issue of weaning stress in calves was important enough to trigger the Suckler Welfare Scheme. Lambs too, take a setback at weaning and suffer stress and weight loss.
Even kill-out rates in the factories seem to take a nosedive once lambs are weaned.
The weaning setback is reduced if the lambs are creep feeding on paddocks ahead of the ewes, or even more so if the lambs are on a dry creep feed.
Flock owners with yearling hoggets will be anxious to wean to give the young ewes a chance to gain condition for the mating season. Still, it is preferable that even the lightest of the lambs in the flock will be over 20kg liveweight at weaning.
It is reckoned that a ewe's milk yield peaks at three to four weeks and that by eight weeks 75pc of the ewe's lactation yield will be fed. At 12/14 weeks, only the better milking ewes will be making a significant contribution to the lamb's growth.