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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Small things that make a big difference in growing great lambs

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If you were to look at the range of lamb daily growth rates on sheep farms in New Zealand, you would find a huge range from as low as 80g – 350g + per lamb per day. To get to the top of this range requires attention to detail.

Ewe condition score and milking ability, pasture quality and quantity, climatic conditions, trace elements and genetics are just some of the variables farmers need to manage. It only takes one of these ingredients to be missing, or to be in short supply, to make it difficult for lambs to reach target weights.

Trace elements, although only required in small amounts, are a key part of this big picture. Adequate dietary levels are essential for healthy lamb growth and production. Selenium and cobalt (used to make Vitamin B12) are of particular importance in New Zealand farming systems. Providing the ewe’s selenium and B12 levels are adequate, her suckling lambs should receive enough of these minerals through to weaning. If the ewe mineral levels are not adequate, then additional supplementation may be necessary to ensure good lamb growth rates. The trick is to know if you need extra supplementation and whether to give this to the ewe or the lamb. If targeting the ewe, then a pre-lamb mineral boost is ideal. If targeting the lamb, then docking/tailing is the first ideal opportunity.

Test to supplement

Herbage samples in the spring, when the grass is actively growing, can give you an idea as to whether the pasture will supply adequate amounts of key minerals. Herbage trace element information should be supported with liver or blood samples, to confirm actual levels for animals and the level for supplementation required.

All stock have different requirements for each trace element, but an animal health professional can help you decide where there may be shortfalls and interpret the results.

There are a range of different options available for boosting animal trace elements including; mineral amended fertilisers, mineralised drenches, injections, pour-on’s, etc.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your regional animal health technical advisor for advice on mineral requirements for your stock this spring

Ideal Selenium and B12 levels for Lambs:

 

Herbage (mg/kg DM)

Liver (nmol/kg)

Serum Blood (nmol/L)

Selenium

>0.03

>440

>100

Cobalt

>0.11

-

-

Vitamin B12

-

>375

>500