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Lamb Finishing Options

29 July 2020

There are a wide range of options for finishing lambs in Scotland. The choice of system will largely depend on the weight and type of lambs and the cost and availability of feed that can be supplied.  Weight of the lamb is an important consideration, whether bought in or home-produced, lambs should be batched according to weight so their feed can be targeted.  The options for finishing lambs will depend on whether you want to finish lambs outdoor or indoors.

Options for an outdoor system include:

  • Pasture based (grass only)
  • Grass plus concentrates- e.g. Providing creep feed early in the season or concentrate feeding later in the season as grass growth declines
  • Mixed sward (use of clover and chicory)
  • Forage crops (e.g. Fodder beet, swedes, stubble turnips)
Outdoor Finishing OptionAverage Liveweight GainAdvantagesConsiderations
Grass100 - 200 g• Typically seen as a cheaper option but can be costly if not managed well (e.g. On poor quality grass growth rates are much lower)• A group of weaned lambs is a good way to start rotational grazing- more info can be found here
Grass + concentrates150 - 300 g• Early in the season providing creep feed can achieve growth rates around 200-300g
• Maintain growth rate if forage is short
• Maintain high stocking rates
• Place feeders in dry standing areas
• Concentrate should not be a replacement for good grassland management
• Feed up to 0.45 kg/head per feed to reduce acidosis risk
• Check ingredients in concentrate for quality
• Risk of coccidiosis
Mixed swards e.g. red or white clover, chicory200 - 300 g• Clover reduces the need for fertiliser
• Improves protein level of the grass
• Increases intakes
• Improved liveweight gain compared to grass only
• Higher mineral and trace element levels than grass
• Risk of bloat on clover rich sward- management key
• Chicory requires careful grazing management – care must be taken to avoid damage to the crown through overgrazing in late autumn/winter
• Chicory unlike clover does not fix nitrogen so will require fertiliser
Forage crops200 - 300 g• High energy and protein content• Deficient in trace elements
• Needs careful management particularly in the transition period
• Further information can be found here:

Indoor finishing options include:

  • Silage based rations- levels of supplementation depend on silage quality.  Good quality grass silage can supply growth rates of 100g/day.
  • Ad lib concentrates – might be used for early lambing flocks or winter finishing of older lambs.
Indoor finishing optionsAverage liveweight gainAdvantagesConsiderations
Silage based100 - 200 g• Higher nutritive value than hay
• Chopped silage improves intakes
• Making use of home grown forage
• Ideally aiming for silage >10.8 MJ of ME/kg DM. Anything less than 10 is not suitable for finishing lambs
• Avoid feeding mouldy silage (risk of listeriosis)
Ad-lib concentrates150 - 250 g• Lambs performance can be monitored and feeding adjusted if needed
• Lambs kept entire have higher growth rates
• Build up gradually to ad lib feeding
• Pelleted feeds often considered more palatable for very young lambs but after weaning lambs can be moved onto home mix rations
• Provides a quick 4-6 week finish
• High cost system (feed and labour)
• Risk of acidosis if not managed properly- lambs should have access to long fibre and digestible fibre should be included in feed (e.g. sugar beet pulp, soya hulls)

Mary Young,

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