Farmers are urged to keep an eye on three factors which can pay dividends as many prepare to wean this year’s crop of lambs.
The information is included in the five-year ‘Stoc+’ project which aims to promote best practice in flock and herd health management.
By 8 weeks of age, lambs’ energy intake comes mainly from eating grass, with a low amount of energy coming from the ewes’ milk.
Weaning usually takes place between 12-14 weeks after lambing, however there are a range of factors that influence farmers’ decisions on the best timing for their flock.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), which is leading the Stoc+ project, said farmers must keep an eye on three factors.
These are weight, pasture and vaccination. The factors can help to wean at the right time, promote the health of both the ewes and the lambs, and ensure on-farm efficiency.
Flock and Herd Health Officer, Lowri Williams said: “Before weaning, while the lambs are still with the ewes, vets recommend vaccinating lambs against clostridial diseases.
“Ewes’ colostrum will only provide protection for between 3 and 4 months, therefore this is the ideal time to act to prevent conditions such as Black disease.”
She added: “Pasture management is also important at this time. Lambs should be turned out to clean pastures which haven’t been grazed for a few months, as there will tend to be a low level of internal parasite larvae.
“Ewes’ grazing should be restricted to stop milk production, while keeping an eye out for mastitis.”
The most crucial element is that lambs’ weights need to be monitored, to help ensure the right timing.
Research has suggested that if lambs’ daily weight gain is below 200g they should be weaned sooner rather than later to ensure they receive sufficient nutrients.
An accurate assessment of lambs’ weight also helps ensure that vaccination and worming doses are as effective as possible, HCC said.
The Stoc+’project is one strand of HCC’s Red Meat Development Programme, a 5-year strategic initiative designed to improve the Welsh red meat industry’s efficiency and profitability.