Options for artificially rearing surplus lambs
As the prolificacy of a flock improves, the number of litters with three or more lambs increases. Some ewes are unable to rear three lambs.
Fostering surplus lambs to ewes rearing singles maybe an option. However in prolific flocks, availability of single bearing ewes is limited thus fostering is not an option for all excess lambs. This article looks at the options available to farmers to artificially rear surplus lambs.
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Regardless of rearing method all lambs should receive adequate colostrum and be removed from the ewe between one and two days of age. Lambs should be supervised for the first few days in the artificial rearing unit to ensure that they are suckling adequately.
Lambs should be grouped according to age and size so that they can be weaned together. Hygiene in the rearing pen is critically important to avoid disease build-up and all feeding equipment should be cleaned regularly. Lambs should be grouped at a maximum of 25 lambs per pen and should have a floor space of 0.6m2 per lamb.
This is the cheapest method of rearing surplus lambs. There is the option to purchase a feeder with teats that will feed up to 10 lambs at a time. This method requires the lambs to be fed three to four times daily so it has the highest labour demand of the three options presented in this article. The main issue with this system is that lambs are prone to digestive upsets due to receiving a large volume of milk three to four times daily.
Ad-lib feeders can rear up to 25 lambs per unit and cost approximately €350. This system can hold up to 50 litres of milk.
These feeders require electricity as they are fitted with a thermostat and a heating element which maintains the milk at a constant temperature.
This system has much reduced instances of digestive upsets as the milk is available ad-lib and the lambs don't gorge on milk three to four times per day. This system has a limited labour requirement of mixing the milk replacer, filling the feeder and frequent cleaning.