Digestibility Of Milk Replacers Key To Successful Lamb Rearing

22 January 2021

Choosing the optimum lamb milk replacer can have a significant impact on lamb sales and flock profitability according to Georgina Thomas, Trouw Nutrition Young Animal Feed Manager.

A recent farmer survey that we completed showed that 55% of sheep producers expect to artificially rear up to 5% of lambs born, with another 14% of farmers anticipating this number will increase to up to 10% of all lambs. Major contributors to the number of these lambs are orphans and lambs from ewes with poor milk supply, with a proportion being from triplets.

“Managing successful artificial rearing must be a priority because it has a big impact on flock profitability as achieving 5-10% more lamb sales will have a big impact on the bottom line ‘” she says. 

“A 300 ewe flock with a 175% lambing percentage will produce a total of 525 lambs.  If just 5% need hand rearing and are reared successfully it will mean an additional 26 quality lambs sold. If reared well they can be as strong as any other lamb, capable of achieving a good weight and grade. So it pays to get organised so you are ready to cope with these lambs as they arise.”

She advises that choosing the best milk replacer with a focus on fully supporting lamb performance and health is central to successful artificial rearing. High digestibility of energy and protein sources are crucial, and it is important the milk replacer is formulated to minimise the risk of digestive upsets.

Newborn lambs have limited energy reserves so a milk replacer must provide sufficient energy in a highly digestible form to support survivability and body temperature maintenance. This is especially important in periods of particularly adverse weather during the lambing period which can exacerbate body heat loss. Adequate energy will also help to support a robust immune system and promote high liveweight gains.

Protein digestibility is also important, and Ms Thomas advises selecting Milkivit Energized Lamb Milk which contains 100% of protein from dairy sources .

“To reduce digestive upsets the replacer should also be formulated for low osmolality which is a measure of the concentrations of sugars and minerals in the replacer. Lamb milk replacers with elevated osmolality either in the formulation or mixed in too concentrated a form can damage gut integrity, increase the risk of scours and compromise future growth rates.”

Ms Thomas advises keeping orphan lambs on milk replacer until around 35 days old when they should be two and a half times their birthweight and eating 250g/day of concentrate.

“By investing in a milk replacer formulated for high digestibility, such as Milkivit Energized Lamb Milk, you can ensure lambs get the nutrients they require for good health and performance and help them get as good a start in life as possible.

“You will achieve optimum growth rates and ensure strong lambs with fewer health issues, helping to reduce vet bills while achieving the best cost/kg liveweight gain and maximising the number of lambs born that are eventually sold to realise the highest value lamb crop.”