Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Artificial lamb rearer works well but at a price

We foster as many lambs as possible onto singles and any twin that loses a lamb (particularly the first lamb).

Normally, all three lambs remain on the ewe for just 24 hours to ensure they get sufficient colostrum.

This is because the longer the lambs are left with the ewe, the harder it is to get them in on the artificial rearer. The ewe is normally left with two equal size lambs with the larger or the smaller being transferred into a small nursery pen with a Ewe 2 warm milk lamb feeder.

From a practical point of view, this pen needs to be near a sink with hot and cold water and a power point. Feed buckets and tubes have to be kept clean.

Young lambs learn the system very quickly. After 4-7 days (depending on how quick the lambs are coming), these lambs are transferred onto cold milk and offered creep. They are now 5-6 weeks on the system and it has worked really well and does not require a lot of labour.

We have ended up with around 70 lambs on the system. The only disadvantage so far is the amount of milk powder the lambs go through. I estimate we will use around 900-950kg milk powder and at €2,650/t it is not cheap (€33/lamb on milk powder). That is why it is vital to cross foster as many lambs as possible and get lambs onto meals.

On the positive side, it did reduce overall mortality. Taking into account every lamb lost (abortions, mummified lambs, etc) we would usually end up with about 12pc mortality. This year it was down to 9pc, giving an extra 15 lambs, going some way to paying for the milk powder. In addition, the lambs were being left on the ewe, there was more watery mouth and lambs succumbing after going to grass.

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