Top tips for successful surplus lamb rearing

Maximising the number of lambs sold per ewe is one of the key benchmarks for a successful sheep enterprise and with lamb prices remaining firm it pays to make every one count.

Volac’s Business Manager Stacey Bruna said: “Neonatal lamb mortality continues to be a challenging issue for the sheep industry but improving colostrum management and feeding practices could make a significant difference.

“Once surplus lambs have received enough of the essential colostrum during the first 24 hours of life they can then move onto a performance-formulated ewe milk replacer to make the most of their significant early life growth potential.

“Following an adequate colostrum intake, feeding a surplus lamb enough of a proven high-quality ewe milk replacer is the key to healthy, profitable growth – and will help you make a decent financial  return on any lamb reared off the ewe.”

Mole Valley Farmers Lamlac can be mixed easily cold and is designed to be a complete diet, providing the lamb with all the energy and nutrients it needs. And feeding enough is key to healthy, profitable growth. A single lamb reared artificially to weaning, at an average of 35 days of age, will require a minimum of 9.5kg of powder, equating to 47.5 litres of reconstituted ewe milk replacer.

Ad-lib feeding

When using a labour-saving, ad-lib feeding system like warm milk buckets or computerised machine feeding, lambs will drink more and grow faster on a little and often basis, which reduces the risk of digestive upsets.

Ms Bruna added: “These bucket feeders are thermostatically controlled. We recommend newborn lambs be started on milk at 30°C, but once they are trained and drinking well the temperature can be reduced to 18-20°C.

“The amount of milk replacer used is approximately 11-12kg per lamb. The Ewe2 and Ewe2 Plus bucket feeders sit outside the lamb rearing pen, ensuring optimum safety and avoiding wasteful spillages.”

She suggested starting lambs on restricted warm milk until trained, with one litre split into four or  five 200-250ml feeds per day, adding: “Training normally takes one to three days, after which you can allow your lamb’s ad-lib access to milk.”

Husbandry tips

Whatever the rearing system adopted, lambs should have access to fresh water, roughage and a good quality creep feed to encourage rumen development.

Ms Bruna said: “Lambs will begin to nibble on creep feed at seven to 10 days of age. Consumption will be low to begin with and offering small amounts and keeping the creep feed refreshed at least once a day will encourage intake.

“You should also introduce clean, dry straw, preferably barley, into racks. Don’t feed ad-lib high-quality roughage like hay during milk feeding as this can depress concentrate intake and delay weaning.

“For optimum rearing results, don’t keep more than 25 lambs in a pen and keep similar ages and sizes together. Lambs must also have access to a clean, dry, straw bedding lying area which is well-ventilated but draught-free. Check your lambs at least twice a day.

“Finally, maintain scrupulous hygiene protocols. All feeding equipment should be thoroughly cleaned each day and disinfected twice a week.”

Weaning advice

When it comes to weaning surplus lambs effectively, they should be:

Abrupt weaning is recommended because it reduces the risk of digestive upsets associated with gradual weaning.

For more help with your lambing season and some great offers on everything from milk replacer to lamb colostrum, visit or talk to your local in-store Agricultural Sales Specialist.