Are ‘pet’ lambs worth more?

'A weak pound  potentially makes rearing surplus lambs even more worthwhile,' Kate Phillips, independent sheep consultant
'A weak pound potentially makes rearing surplus lambs even more worthwhile,' Kate Phillips, independent sheep consultant

The dramatic pre Brexit crash of our pound against the euro seems good news, at least in the medium term, for UK lamb producers.

Kate Phillips, the independent sheep consultant, comments that: “The Eurozone takes 19 of every 20 sheep meat exports so a strong euro should ensure decent demand for British lamb next year. It may be short term, but the flipside of recent years when a stronger pound and other adverse market conditions depressed lamb exports.

“Hopefully UK producers will be able to cash in for once, but only if they have high numbers of healthy lambs to sell.”

Every flock every year has lambs that have to be reared away from their mother and in 2017 these could be more profitable than usual. Thus Kate urges her fellow farmers before Christmas to examine their lamb rearing plans.

“Basically you have three options come lambing time: you sell them to someone else to rear, foster surplus lambs onto a single-bearing ewe or artificially rear them on milk replacer.

“Taking third and fourth lambs off their mothers boosts survival rates and performance forby taking the pressure off ewes. Particularly important for a young mother in helping her keep growing and producing enough milk for the lambs she has left.”

When deciding which lamb to take from a triplet-bearing ewe Kate Phillips advises removing the smallest or largest to leave a balanced pair. “Whichever lamb is chosen it must be sucking well, have been with its mother for 24 hours and received a good supply of colostrum especially in the first six hours of life.

“If intending to follow artificial rearing practice bear in mind that automated machine feeding offers many advantages over traditional restricted feeding with a bottle or teated bucket.

“Lambs can be reared very efficiently artificially and without the problems associated with fostering onto an unwilling ewe. With good husbandry, sound organisation and the right milk replacer there’s no doubt you can produce good quality lambs, as well as save yourself hours of effort and hassle,” affirmed Kate.

Profit conscious UK sheep producers clearly appreciate the benefits of machine-rearing lambs. Volac, for example, reported a 135% increase in sales of their automated lamb milk feeders for the 2016 lambing season and expect this trend to continue into 2017.

Jackie Bradley, Volac young animal nutrition specialist noting that: “Farmers are attracted by the labour-saving benefits as machine-rearing frees up time for other important jobs. Farmers also report faster growth rates because there is no limit to how much or when the lambs can drink. Producers also say they see fewer digestive upsets.”

To find out more Freephone 0800 919808, browse or contact Volac NI’s Alistair Sampson on 07860 626 442.