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Weaning Strategies To Reduce Stress In Sheep

6 August 2018

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Stress in animals will reduce performance and render them more susceptible to disease. So minimise stress this weaning time by considering the following tips:

  • Minimise calling to one another by keeping the ewes and lambs well apart
  • Move the ewes, not the lambs – the lambs stay on a field that they are familiar with for a few days to reduce the stress
  • Avoid the temptation to tie in with other tasks, such as drenching and vaccination, this will add to lamb stress
  • After a few days, move the lambs onto a high quality pasture to keep them growing fast
  • If using specialist finishing crops such as red clover or plantain, introduce this before weaning so the lambs can get used to it
  • The ewes should be dried off quickly on bare pasture or poorer quality forage to reduce mastitis risk

Weaning is a good opportunity to do a stocktake – how has lambing actually faired? A count and lamb weights can be used to calculate the weight weaned per ewe; this is influenced by ewe condition, pasture quality and quantity, worms and trace elements. A stocktake now can help inform management and give a baseline to improve. The weights can also be used to split lambs into groups and feed strategically.

Poppy Frater, 

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