Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weaning Lambs

Weaning lambs can be difficult and stressful.  We just weaned our last lambs yesterday, and were kept awake most of the night by the ewes baaing.  If you own sheep and are approaching weaning time here are some tips to make it easier on you, the lambs, and the ewes.

The earliest you can wean lambs (the act of separating ewes and lambs) is 2 months old provided you give extra feed to the lambs and watch them closely.  Three months is preferred, and you should certainly wean the ram lambs before four months of age.  Ewes will wean the lambs on their own between three and five months of age, but ram lambs will be sexually mature at five months of age and may try to breed their mothers and other ewes.

The easiest way of lambing, is to sell (or remove) some lambs from the ewes that had multiples.  In other words, if a ewe had twins, or triplets, selling (or removing) one before the others is great.  This reduces the stress on her, in that she is not losing all lambs at the same time, and gives her some relief in that she is not feeding so many lambs.

When lambs are removed it is best if they are sold, or taken to where the ewe and lamb cannot hear each other, or they will try to reconnect and could get hurt running through fences.  If you cannot do this then you may need to put the lambs in the barn for a few days to allow the ewes to dry up.  They will be safer in the barn than running around crashing through fences.

If you have ram lambs with horns those should ideally be the first as their horns will be painful on the ewe's udder.

You can imagine how glad the mother of this little guy was to have him weaned.  Pictured here at three months, this is a Jacob sheep, ram lamb.

When removing the last lambs be sure to watch the ewe's closely to make sure their udder dries up.  If you were feeding the ewes grain, this should be reduced one day prior to weaning to help the ewe dry up.

Further Reading

Why Farmers Take Baby Animals Away from their Mothers

How to Care for Bottle Fed Lambs

*This information would also apply to weaning goat kids.

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