RED DEER— Feeding lambs the right stuff gets them off to a good start in life.
A nutrition program could include creep feeding and it must pay extra attention to protein and energy levels, said researcher Paul Luimes of the University of Guelph.
“What you do to that lamb will impact her for the rest of her life,” he said at the Alberta sheep symposium held in Red Deer Oct. 20-21.
More research is needed to make lambs more efficient and produce lean muscle rather than fat. Lean muscle comes from adequate protein consumption.
“If we oversupply energy in the early stages, that animal can’t convert that energy into protein and so that lamb is going to put on fat,” he said.
Fat replacement ewes are not good. The fat goes into their udders and decreases milk production.
One way to deliver more protein is through creep feeding, which encourages very young animals to start eating solid food and promote rumen development.
Lambs born as twins and triplets or those with mothers having poor milk production can benefit from a high protein creep feed ration. They can eat about 230 grams or half a pound a day of creep feed. Once they are eating that much, producers can transition them off the creep feed and put them on a finishing diet.
It takes about a week to switch over from creep feed to a finishing diet, said Luimes.
Creep feed gets the young rumen working and when the lamb goes to finishing, the rumen is better developed and can absorb nutrients better.
It is critical to provide clean water as well as milk from their mothers because it will help with feed intake.
Replacement ewes may receive some hay because it helps develop a large, strong rumen whereas market lambs do not need it.
Lessons from swine showed young pigs that ate creep feed did not have heavier weaning weights but they were larger at the end of the nursery stage and a big difference in growth was noted at the end of the finishing period.
Luimes has also tested different types of feed.
Corn silage can be fed to lambs but no more than 25 percent should be included in the diet.
He has also looked at pelleting versus non-pelleting feeds.
Lambs eat more feed in the pellet form but the costs need to be considered.
“There is no advantage to pelleting and there is no disadvantage but there are a lot of practical reasons for doing it,” he said.
Bunk management is easier with pellets. Lambs will eat it all so there is little or no waste.
Other work tested dried distillers grains from the ethanol sector, soybean meal and mixed grain rations of corn, barley and oats.
DDGs could be a profitable way to feed growing lambs to provide them with enough protein and energy. However, it needs to be mixed with other feeds because they do not find it palatable.
Corn cob meal, a high moisture product. is another good alternative.
The cobs can be ground at 25 percent moisture and ensiled. It is a cheap feed and lambs will eat it, especially when mixed with DDGs.
Luimes’ research showed corn cob meal cost 48 cents per pound of gain compared to straight corn costing 69 cents per pound of gain.
The feed was supplemented with standard minerals.
Besides a well-balanced ration, a solid health program is needed.
Healthy animals require less feed for maintenance
It costs 23 cents a pound more to get the sick ones to market.
They need to be vaccinated and stocking densities need to be maintained. If lambs are overcrowded they struggle to get to feed and water.
Bunk management is another way to ensure they eat enough.
The throat height of a bunk for lambs should be 10 to 12 inches high whereas ewes need 12 to 15 inches.