Put lambs back on track with fibre

Recent high protein grass growth is behind many lamb growth problems being experienced on many farms, according to Signet sheep specialist Maurice Jones.

Lambs which suffered earlier in the season with cold weather and poor grass supply are now finding it difficult to start thriving again, he says.

“Steps need to be taken to provide them with increased dry matter intakes to help redress rumen pH levels.

“Lambs have suffered a growth check after weeks of cold, wet weather and many farms are now faced with grass that has suddenly taken off.

It’s put a thick sward of high protein grass in front of lambs and reseeds that were expected to provide the best possible late spring grazing for these lambs are actually creating the biggest problems.

“Farms with poorer swards offering a lower quality grass are probably better off in a season like this one.

Lambs just can’t cope.

The high protein content of grass is being broken down and the ammonia is scorching the gut,” advises Mr Jones.

He says the grass is causing many lambs to scour badly, which in turn is making them feel hungry and so grass intakes continue to be high.

“They eat more and so they scour more.

What’s needed is high quality, clean barley straw or medium quality hay to buffer rumen pH and get lambs to stop eating grass.

“This long fibre will fill them up and make them lie down.

It will break the cycle that’s causing the scouring and will eventually put a lining back on the gut wall and lambs should start to thrive.”

Mr Jones says sheep producers will be surprised how much long fibre lambs will eat even though it looks as though there is a tremendous crop of early summer grass in front of them.

Shropshire sheep vet Chris Lewis advises sheep producers to consider giving lambs a broad-based vitamin drench to help them get back on track.

“The weather plus the cold, wet grass has pulled a lot of lambs down. But the lush grass growth that’s followed can create a cobalt deficiency problem.

It’s worth talking to your vet and possibly testing a few lambs to check for vitamin deficiencies, although cobalt levels can vary widely from lamb to lamb.

A broad-based vitamin drench is well worth considering,” says Mr Lewis.