Sheep management: Turning attentions to weaning lambs

As we head into June, the task of weaning lambs on many farms will, or at least should, commence over the coming weeks.

Once lambs get to between 12 and 14 weeks-of-age, farmers should be considering weaning them off the ewes.

By not doing this, it can have a negative impact on both the lambs and the ewes.

For example, at this stage in the year, lambs are consuming large quantities of grass, so by not weaning the lambs, both the ewes and the lambs will only end up competing against each other for grass.

Especially now, when grass growth rates aren’t where farmers would like them to be for this time of the year, it might be a good time to wean off lambs that little bit earlier.

Moreover, by now, ewes’ won’t be producing as much milk as they would have been earlier in the season, so there will be little to no impact on a lamb’s growth rate by weaning them now.

As well as competing for grass supplies, ewes need a break from lambs to allow them to recover and regain body condition for the breeding season later on in the year.

Lambs that were born around the start of March should be earmarked for weaning over the next few weeks.

Abrupt weaning is the most common method used on most farms. This involves separating all of the ewes and lambs at the same time.

In the case of abrupt weaning, ideally, farmers should be giving lambs access to good-quality, leafy swards straight away after weaning, which will help the lambs to settle quickly and avoid any major dip in performance.

Good fencing is a necessity and it is best if ewes and lambs are kept well apart and out of sight – in order to make the transition period easier and less stressful.