21 July 1995

Give lambs the best grass

Weaning is a management tool and so few farmers see it as that, says ADAS sheep specialist Leslie Stubbings.

"Most years when lambs get to 12 or 16 weeks old they need more input than the ewes, so the best grass should go to the lambs," she says. "When grass is short, as it is this year, wean and give what there is to the lambs even if that means some ewes end up indoors. It is important producers decide on their priorities."

And 12 weeks is the earliest Ms Stubbings recommends weaning lambs.

Before then the ewe is still making a significant contribution in milk and lambs are not yet functioning well as ruminants. If producers did wean at 12 weeks new pasture should be free from worms.

Ewes must on no account be dried off by depriving them of water, she warns. "Not only is it against the law but it is also counter-productive, because only once the udder has filled with milk will the ewe dry herself off. If she is kept indoors with no water and then turned out on to grass she will start making milk again.

Instead just hold ewes indoors for a couple of days with ad lib straw and plenty of clean water."