Weaning Time for Lambs and Kids
Weaning time has likely arrived for many producers, but others may be making preparations for weaning now. Weaning can be a stressful event for offspring, ewes and does, and producers. Offering suggestions for minimizing stress will be much appreciated for all involved. Aside from recommending earplugs to silence the crying lambs and bleating does below are a few other suggestions that may be helpful for your producers.
- Weaning is typically done between 60 to 90 days of ages. However, weaning by weight is a better recommendation (2.5 – 3 times birth weight). Aside for age and weight, lambs and kids should be observed foraging or eating creep feed well.
- If a producer chooses to creep feed, creep feeding should be started before weaning. This will help mitigate some stress on the offspring, as well as continue to encourage full rumen development. Creep feeding can come in the form of a high concentrate or high-quality pastures and hays. At minimum creep feed (concentrate or forage) should be 14% crude protein, 16% is better. Forage availability and quality should be evaluated for dams and offspring prior to weaning.
- Early vs Late Weaning: Some producers opt for early weaning while others prefer later weaning (4 – 6 months of age). Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.
- Early Weaning:
- May be more economical to feed offspring than lactating dams.
- Reduces lactation stress on high milking dams.
- Increased stressed.
- Allows dams to regain condition.
- Late Weaning:
- Reduced stress for offspring and dams.
- Reduced incidence of mastitis.
- Forage quality and quantity may be greater; however, dams may compete for forage with offspring.
- Reduces labor through group management.
- Increased chance for offspring parasitism.
- Early Weaning:
- Do not overload with additionally stresses. Try to avoid vaccinating, deworming, castrating, and tagging at the time of weaning. It is recommended to perform these other management practices two weeks prior to weaning.
- Remove ewes and does from lambs and kids. It is best to leave the offspring in familiar surroundings to minimize their stress. Advise the producers to check all fencing prior to weaning. Reducing predation and escape artists is essential.
- Continue to monitor. Regularly monitoring for signs of health and performance are important in offspring and mothers. Identifying poor doers early is always best. Recording feed intake for lambs and kids can be a good measure of health.
Emily Cope, Ph.D.
Animal Science Extension Specialist
North Carolina A&T State University