Weening the Lambs
Yesterday, after a morning of family paintball, we came home to the farm to the chore of weening the lambs. Weening is the process of removing the young lambs from their mothers and is a necessary evil both for the health of the ewes and the development of the lambs.
Weaning is a crucial time in the management of ewes and lambs. It is the practice of removing from lambs the milk diet provided by the ewe (or a milk replacement diet). From the milk diet, lambs are moved onto forage or grain-based diets. The separation can be stressful for both ewes and lambs.
The process of separating the lambs from their mothers is a bit tricky because they will all scatter if you just walk up and grab one. This is one of the reasons that we give the sheep cracked corn and sweet feed on a regular basis. The associate us with those treats, especially when we are carrying a bucket and calling them.
The sheep associate us with those treats, especially when we are carrying a bucket and calling them. So, we lure them into a smaller fenced area with the treat and then, using a cattle panel (which is a 16-foot long semi ridged metal fence) we worked them all into a corner. Thirteen lambs and nine ewes packed in like sardines.
Then one of us enters that space and picks the lambs out one at a time handing them over the fence. Once all the lambs are separated from their mothers, we let the mothers go and the crying starts.
The moms all calling for their lambs and the lambs all calling for their moms. It is quite a racket and it didn’t stop until mid-morning today.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the actual weening process – as you can imagine all our hands were fully occupied. However, I did get a few of the lambs happily eating once we had their mothers on the other side of the farm.
The lambs and their mothers will remain separated for about four weeks. After that, we can reintroduce them to each other. This is a great opportunity for the mothers to regain some strength after spending 10-12 weeks nursing their lambs. It will also give the lambs the incentive they need to transition to a full grass diet.