Lambs nursing

Lambs nursing

 Eating creep feed
Creep pen

 Pasture lamb
Pasture lamb

 Getting a drink of water
Getting a drink of water



    What else is there to eat?

  • A healthy start
    For the first several weeks of its life, all a lamb needs for nourishment is its mother's milk. The first milk that a ewe produces after lambing is called colostrum. It is very nutritious and contains antibodies that help the lamb fight off diseases during the early part of its life.

    Lambs will start to nibble on solid food (hay, grass, and grain) soon after birth. By the time they are 4 to 6 weeks old, they may be obtaining as much as 50 percent of their nutrients from sources other than their mother's milk.

  • Orphan lambs
    Lambs whose mothers die, reject them, or don't have enough milk must be raised as orphans or "bummer" lambs. Small numbers of orphan lambs are usually hand-fed with a bottle that has been fitted with a nipple for nursing. Larger groups of lambs are usually fed on an automatic milk bar.

    Orphan lambs are usually fed reconstituted ewe's milk because it is more nutritious than goat or cow milk. Ewe's milk is richer in protein, fat, solids, and minerals. After the first few days, it is better to feed milk cold as this will help to prevent the lambs from overeating. Orphan lambs can be successfully weaned at 6 weeks of age if they are consuming dry feed and drinking water. They should weight 25 to 30 pounds before weaning.

  • Extra food
    Young lambs, 1 to 2 weeks old, are often started on creep feed. Creep feeding is when supplemental feed (usually grain) is offered to nursing lambs. Creep grazing is a similar concept whereby lambs are given access to cleaner, more nutritious pasture. A creep is a barrier that keeps ewes out, but lets lambs in.

    Creep feeding helps to develop the young lamb's rumen. It is especially advantageous for lambs from large litters (2 or more) whose dams's may have a limited milk supply. It is generally more efficient to feed the lamb grain that to feed the ewe more grain.

  • Finishing period
    Lambs are usually "fattened" on grass or with grain while in confinement (or semi-confinement). Often, they are supplemented with grain while they are grazing pasture. It is getting more popular to finish lambs on pasture. The meat from lambs that are raised on pasture is usually leaner and more healthful than the meat from lambs that are just fed grain.

    The meat from lambs fed mostly grain tends to have a milder flavor than grass-fed lamb. The type of plants that the lambs eat can also affect the flavor of the meat. Lambs fed grain tend to grow faster than lambs fed pasture.

  • All-vegetarian diets
    Although sheep are sometimes fed by-product feeds such as soybean, peanut hulls, or distiller's grains, they are not fed ruminant meat-and-bone meal. In fact, it is against the law in the U.S. to fed ruminant meat-and-bone meal to any other ruminant. Lambs are not usually fed poultry waste products due to copper toxicity issues. Almost all lambs consume all-vegetarian diets with "natural" ingredients.

  • Water
    Water is the most important "nutrient" that sheep need. How much they consume depends upon their age, size, and production status (and level), as well as temperature of the water and the amount of moisture in their feed. Sheep consuming wet grass or wet feeds (e.g. silage) won't drink a lot of water because they are getting it with their feed. Conversely, they will drink more water if they are eating dry hay or dry, mature grass. Sheep don't like to drink dirty water.

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