Feeding During Weaning

October 23, 2023

There is never a time in agriculture, and certainly in livestock production, that is not challenging. Isn’t that what we all love about it……? Spring 2023 is likely to be one of those challenging times for sheep producers who are battling low market prices for sheep/lambs with high grain prices. Given the potential for these factors to negatively influence flock profitability, it is essential that the dropped lambs are well managed to limit further losses that can potentially arise from poorly managed weaning. If they are good enough to breed, they are good enough to feed!

But what to feed, when and how much? Weaning is a crucial time for ewes and lambs, where the profitability of the flock can be realised or wasted. There is no “best age” to wean. Traditionally, it begins 12 weeks post the start of lambing but often needs to be sooner in a poor season. This timing can assist with the ewe’s recovery and allow her to regroup nutritionally, ahead of the next year’s joining. In addition, tough seasonal conditions, accompanied by poor pasture availability, can be a catalyst for early weaning of lambs, who can be a significant nutritional draw on the ewes and will compete for any feed on offer.

For lambs, the heavier they are at weaning, the better their chance of survival and the better their growth rates. Even small increases in weaning weights can significantly influence survival chances. Similarly, higher post weaning growth rates will boost survival, even for lighter weaners.

Whatever age lambs are weaned at, it is important to ensure that they have access to a high quality, energy dense, balanced ration that they adapt to without developing acidosis. Lambs have enough to cope with without suffering a nutritional setback early in life. It is only by meeting their nutritional needs at this stage that their full bodyweight and reproduction potential will be realised. Lupins and/or barley/oats dribbled out the back of a ute does not meet the criteria for a “high quality, energy dense, balanced ration”. Weaners need a ration that is 12 MJ/kg ME and 14 – 18% crude protein on a dry weight basis. In addition, the ration should be balanced for major minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, contain micro minerals at the correct levels and ratio, and ideally include a non-antibiotic-based ingredient to counter coccidiosis and promote optimal growth. Preferably, such rations should prevent acidosis, thus eliminating the problem of bloat during the initial feeding introduction period. Getting these proportions right on farm is not easy and requires some pretty sophisticated mixing equipment.  

Fortunately, Milne Feeds has a range of sheep rations backed up by more than 10 years of research. One of these is LambGro®, which is always the top performer in weaner feeding for merino and meat-sheep breeds. LambGro® is designed to be fed ad lib to lambs from 9 weeks of age, without the need for an adaptation period.

For more information on LambGro®, or any other Milne sheep feed, contact Paul Nenke on 0407 720 040 or visit milne.com.au.