Friday, 14 August 2020 07:24

Rearing orphan lambs

Written by  Staff Reporters
Simplicity is the key to successful orphan lamb rearing. Simplicity is the key to successful orphan lamb rearing.

As farmers strive to maximise their lamb survival, interest in orphan lamb rearing systems has been steadily growing.

While automatic lamb feeders have become popular, farmers are developing different orphan lamb rearing systems that suit their operation and climate.

The Dawkins family, based in Marlborough, have refined an orphan lamb rearing system as an adjunct to their Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farm project – which focused on indoor triplet lambing.

They have found simplicity to be the key to orphan lamb rearing. If the system gets too labour intensive, it becomes costly and time-consuming with no obvious benefits.

Every year the Dawkins rear between 30 and 50 lambs and most of these are sold by the end of January at a minimum of 42kg. Richard Dawkins say they have both the infrastructure (a large, sunny, well-ventilated shed) and the climate to allow their system to work so well and this might not be the case on other farms in other regions. 

This is a summary of what they have found to be important for successfully rearing orphan lambs:

Maximise the amount of sunlight into the orphan pen. This provides warmth and kills germs.

Ventilation is also important. A wet and stagnant environment is a breeding ground for bacteria. A light breeze during the day provides important air flow.

Clean straw for bedding.

Five feeds per day for lamb health and growth rates. 

This is very labour intensive so invest in an automatic feeder or build your own ‘gravity feeder’. The Dawkins’ feeder cost about $200 and significantly cut their labour costs.

Feeding cows colostrum has worked very well with no bloat and growth rates between 250 - 300g / day. A cheap option, but not available to everyone.

Ensure new-born lambs have sufficient colostrum from a ewe prior to training them onto a feeder. The Dawkins tend to bottle feed for two to three days so the lamb is fit and strong before being placed in the main pen.

Keep a watchful eye on any lambs falling behind. These may require bottle feeding or to be placed under a heat lamp.

Introduce good quality roughage from day one to assist in rumen development and therefore early weaning. The Dawkins use lucerne hay and their lambs are weaned after six weeks of age at 16–20kg onto lucerne in the paddock.

Ensure clean water is available at all times and give the lambs access to a pen outside as well.

More like this

Self-shedding sheep study

Massey University is examining the economic impact and the production consequences of crossbreeding with Wiltshire sheep to a fully shedding flock.

Meat sector takeover of wool?

A meat industry-dominated group has formed to carry out the recommendations of the Wool Industry Project Action Group report and is ready to lead that change.

Featured

 

Fonterra back in the black

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says 2019/20 was a good year for the co-op, with profit up, debt down and a strong milk price.

Strategy to reduce heifer mastitis

First calvers are more prone to mastitis than older cows. According to DairyNZ, farmers must choose a strategy that best suits their herd, farm team, and budget.

National

Helping grow farming’s future

John Jackson’s ability for future and critical thinking saw him deeply involved in the development of an agribusiness programme that…

Nothing sustainable without profit

Chair of Dairy Environment Leaders programme Melissa Slattery believes that sustainable farming is highly important to young farmers.

Machinery & Products

JD updates header line-up

John Deere has updated its entire header line-up for combines to include the new HDR Rigid Cutterbar Drapers, RDF HydraFlex…

Hybrid harvesters launched

New Holland has entered the world of hybrid headers, launching a new machine that blends its conventional threshing drum and…

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Burn!

OPINION: This old mutt had to have a giggle at the dig Feds recently made at the Green Party in the…

Why?

OPINION: Your canine crusader was aghast to read that the prices of zucchini and cucumbers rose more than 30% in…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter