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At what age can a lamb live on grass etc and zero milk?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Hi there! I start to suffer from the lack of grass/drought, and I will have to remove some sheep so that I can keep the lambs a little longer. I just cannot keep up with the grass cutting and carrying any more. I had to give a bit more grain than I like, nd even with full buckets of alfalfa, they are asking for GREEN!

I just don't know how old should the lambs be so that they can eat on their own without having milk any more.

I am not very fond of the idea to fight so that one gives a bit of milk to the lambs that are not hers. I am not fond of buying replacement, but if this is the best for everybody.... The only ewe that I can milk presently has some mastitis.

Of course I can just wait and see... but I would like to plan a little bit more! The answer to my question will help me to plan further decisions! Thanks!
 
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Hi Xisca,

Weaning lambs can very depending on industry, but the average is 4 months of age in the US sheep industry. How old are your lambs, and what are you raising them for?
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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They are for eating. Yes I know they can drink that long, but i want to know how much this is possible to reduce this time, so that I do not have to kill them much younger. I have to kill the mothers as soon as possible because there is no more food. I was not supposed to keep them that long but for many reasons they are still there and thus got youngs... So if they have no mother, either I have to kill them too or hope they can eat grass. So... at what age are they able to eat only grass, even if this is not the ideal?
 
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I PREFER to wean at 60 days, but have weaned as early as 45 days.
 
R. Steele
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Xisca,

How old are your lambs? Are they younger then 45 days? Dairy farms wean earlier then 45, but they most likely use supplement feeding practices to help the transitions. How successful your lambs will transition will likely depend on how old they are, and what steps or supplements will be needed to keep them in good health. There age matters, so its important to know how old they are.
 
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Be aware that spring greens have really low feed value.  So when you do this matters too.  Later in the summer they have built up stored nutrients but spring growth has very little food value yet.  If you are going to wean early you want high value foods.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Thanks for your answers. They have different age and are under 3 weeks old, and I still expect one birth. I try to question in advance! As I said, the answers were going to help me plan, and especially how many I can try to keep at least 3 months or not. Here lambs are kept until 100 days.

But there was almost no tradition of eating mutton, appart from removing young lambs. The canarian breed is for milk and wool. They were just leaving the old dead animals for wild life! I am not joking : you will not commonly find mutton at the butcher here! People used to eat pig and still do. This is more than half you see at the butcher.... Then beef comes second.  

Here even in the northern hemisphere, we are at the end of the grass season, so not like spring in the north! This is why I said I was beginning to lack food!
 
R. Steele
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Hi Xisca,

If you haven’t already found your answer, as early as 30-35 days lambs can be weaned. You need to provide a high quality forage though, for the lambs to be healthy. Weaning as early as 14 days has been successful, but its rare. The lambs rumen isn't even fully developed till 21 days from my understanding, so unless you're going to use a milk replacer, I wouldn't personally wean till the 30-35 day mark. If you have to take them from the mother earlier the 30-35 days, I would get a milk replacer and make sure you have high quality forage for them.

Im not sure your location, but it may be wise to seed into your pastures with some drought tolerant high quality forage crops, that when the grass dies, will still provide additional high quality forage for around and past weaning time. If I know your rough location, I can check around and see what works best for your zone, so you won't have this problem next year.

Hope that helps!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Sure that helps!
I am exhausted but will try to do the work to arrive to the month!

Thanks for insisting on the idea of the quality of forage.

I buy regular alfalfa (I guess it is not very much sprayed, hope I am not wrong) and organic barley and corn. (nothing else can be found organic here). Alfalfa is concetrated.

Then we have grass at its best of growth, as our growing season is from october to now. I have 2 good plants that are
- Cornical https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periploca_laevigata
- Tedera https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bituminaria_bituminosa
We also cut prickly pears pads in bits, but I have no idea about the nutrients quality.
Also almond leaves.
If I can go with the car, then I can bring our famous tagasaste https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytisus_proliferus

About my location... I am interrogative if this appears with my name: Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
It is frostfree, latitude 28ª, same as south of Morocco, but with an oceanic climate coupled with a meditarranean climate. This "year" we had rain early in october, but almost nothing then, until some more rain in february. Some drops to wash leaves in between...

I am at 500 m high, this is why the tagaste is not natural, but I can plant it and will. I also have pigeon pea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigeon_pea
It would help if I know at what moment is the branch best loaded with nutrition. I guess when there are some green pods with the green pea and some flowers at the end of the branch?

Sorgho will probably be a good choice for growing, less water needed than for corn.
Also sudan grass https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorghum_%C3%97_drummondii

 
R. Steele
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Hello again Xisca,

I'm not super familiar with your region, like the soil type, the seasonal timings or the amounts of annual precipitation. But I have a few annual forages you can try looking up to see if they will work in your area. I'm assuming the dry season is your summer? For warm season crops Sunn Hemp, the Sudangrass you already mentioned,Teft, and Millet will grow well in the dry season heat. You'll want varieties breed for forage production if applicable. They are all annuals that will build your soil to increase organic matter, and moisture retention. Letting some of them seed out if possible will ,help keep them in your pastures. Planting them when it's warm enough going into summer, but still moist will be key without irrigation. So researching the best time to plant them in your region would be smart. The Sunn Hemp is a legume that will fix nitrogen, provide massive amounts of biomass and forage, and it's a drought tolerant subtropical warm season legume.

Then for a cool season crop, I wonder if Silver River Sweet clover would grow well there in your cool rainy season? You're definitely on the cusp of being able to use it, as less heat tolorant varieties grow wild in Southern Florida. It's very drought tolerant, and good forage for browsers. But will finish up its production before the heat, so most likely die off with your other grasses before your warm season crop kickes off. The benefit of it is the quality of forage, comparable to alfalfa, the tannins help reduce paracites, and the nitrogen fixation in your cool season growth.

Like I said your way outside my familiarity zone, an I'm unsure of your soil type. But if your lacking institutions there for agriculture support, Agricultural Extension Offices and Universities in Southern Florida will have trial information on good forages for at least your climate zone. Some Institutions in Southern Texas may be helpful too.  Then after you know it will grow in your climate zone, just study the individual forage species for minimum precipitation and soil type requirements to see if it will likely work in your area.

Hope that helps!
 
R. Steele
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Xisca,

I was researching your island, and it sounds quite complicated regarding the precipitation on various parts of the island. If you can tell me what your total annual precipitation is I can probably do the checking on forage crops for you.

You already told me your rainy season, and I just researched seasons and temperatures. So with annual precipitation and soil type, I can better figure things out.

If you know your soil type in your feilds, and the amount of annual precipitation you get there, that could help to make sure my suggestions will work. Though I'm not sure if your island has restrictions on certian agriculture seeds or species, which may be a limiting factor.

Ok once I know those factors I can better double check and further research other suitable forage crops that if not restricted, will do well in your exact area.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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My soil is slightly acidic like near 6 or just under. It is quite balanced and not clogging, just the right amount of clay. I can still work it when dry. Not deep, no underwater at all in the island. My zone is west, the south of Garafía, just before the wetter zone. Rain is very irrgular, maybe 500mm... Let's sayt the strict minimum for almond trees to survive, and some vine can survive from the past (when the climate was more wet 30 years ago) only in the northern slopes.

Heat is only 28-30ºc in summer exept when we have calima from the sahara!
 
Travis Johnson
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What we are all referring to here, but no one has specifically said, is something called Rumen Pack.

Lambs grow incredibly fast. In fact, consider this. A lamb is the exact same size as a human baby at birth, is almost as complex, and yet from conception to birth is only 5 months instead of 9 months. And it took 4 years for my daughter to get to 40 pounds, and only a few weeks for my lambs too. Because of the fast growth, they need proper nutrition.

Unfortunately, they have very small rumens, so it is possible that they eat and eat, pack their rumens up with poor forage, feel full so they stop eating, but then literally starve to death. This is why I cannot give my lambs haylage. Haylage is just plain too wet. At 66% water...or 2/3 water, they are cramming their bellies full, but getting 1/3 food, and literally starving to death. yet after a few months, I can switch them, and my breeding stock ewes; to haylage and be fine, because their nutrition requirements are less.

If drought is fairly uncommon, then I would just buy grain or hay as a suppliment for the short term. If it is a long term issue, then I might cull a few sheep and get the flock back down to sutainable levels for the growing conditions. You could fuss with your fields some by getting the PH up, but for grass, your PH levels ar adequate...not great...but adaquate. A bit of fertilizer might get a little more growth, but if you have sheep on it, their poo with self fertilize as they poo out 85% of what they eat anyway. I cannot imagine your pastures would be that depleted.

 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Thanks, a lot of good learning! Yes culling a lot is planned, thus my question, in order to keep the lambs until they are at least 100 days. I was not going to keep as many, but let's say we had a problem with my boyfriend: he, more than I thought, does things at the last moment, so I was trusting that if he did not bother my asking to cull 6 months ago, there was enough food. Local sheep are really eating everything, much more than goats.

No field but mountain slopes. Also no hay here. I can find organic barley and corn only. Then alfalfa.
Is it something that they can eat since little, from the beginning?
Not too much fermentng with grains?

I am also looking into methods for sprouting barley, if this is adequate for young animals. Some people told me no, others ok if 10 days but not when just sprouted... I imagine this could be concentrated food for them!
 
R. Steele
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Hello Xisca,

That's good news with your precipitation, as it's just enough to grow the crops I mentioned in the previous post, and your summer temperatures are perfect to for those warm season crops.

My suggestion is put down a little lime to get your pH around 6.75 to slightly sweeten your soil and improve your grass growth. A little lime will also help growing legumes to, as lime also has calcium in it.

Another suggestions that may grow there in your cool season is Common Vetch, it's an annual climbing legume.  

A Sudangrass-Sorghum Hybrid for grazing may produce more forage then Sudangrass alone, and may be more drought tolerant then Sorghum.

Common Vetch is a annual legume that will most likely grow in your cool season with the grasses fixing nitrogen, and may even grow a little in first part of your warm season, though im not sure how well it will reseed without chill hours.

Sainfoin is a perennial fodder legume worth at least looking into, but without proper chill hours in your frost free climate, I'm not sure how well it would grow there as a perennial.

Don’t forget to look at the Silver River Sweet Clover cultivar, as its drought tolerant and does well in heat compared to other sweet clovers, even in southern Texas. Which if I'm not mistaken in parts of southern Texas is very close zone 11.

Because many cool season legumes tend to be deep rooted, they may stay green a little longer then the grasses, helping transition your lambs with high protein forage while the the warm season crops get their growth established.

The Sunn Hemp, Sudangrass-Sorghum hybrid, Teft and Millet I already mentioned will all be your best options for fodder in the warm season drought, as they are proven in your climate zone. And if you were to only pick one Sunn Hemp is it, followed by Sudangrass-Sorghum hybrid as a close second, then Millet.

If you can do sprouted grains, look into a sprouted grain fodder system. It increases the dry matter content exponentially, and the protien content, because you let the grain sprout to around 6 inches tall, making it comparable to quality grass forage. Using it as a supplement at minimum shouldn't be an issue, as many people do already with Barley.

I would look into a mix of Barley, Corn and Peas if possible, to create a more balanced nutrient content of fodder, then make sure they have access to other free choice supplements and quality grass hay.

The sprouting changes the enzymes of the grain itself, which also changes the seeds chemistry, and in many casses can reduce anti-nutritonal properties that are sometimes a problem in legume seeds.

Doing some research on a good sprouted fodder mix will help insure balanced nutrition, without causing bloat or nutrient deficiencies, especially from anti-nutritonal factors associated with legume seeds. It will also let you know what percentage of their diet you can fill with with the sprouted fodder.

Definitely research any sprouted fodder mix from accredited sources before implamenting.

Hope that helps give you some ideas!



 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Yes I have enough to "munch" for a while thanks!
I did not know Sunn hemp, I have to find seed...

As a cool season legume, I have seen flowers that look the same as vetch, wild, as they used to grow several legumes around, in the times they had to eat from the land not so long ago... They were actually sowing a lot for animals.

I have a lot of Tangier pea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lathyrus_tingitanus better ics here: http://www.floradecanarias.com/lathyrus_tingitanus.html
Curiously they are not mad at it and like it better dry. The peas are coming now, it comes late in our season.

The legume I mentionned is their favorite: bituminaria bituminosa. I already have periploca and will grow more in the rocky places, because it is said to be valuable and nutritious. It is a native, so not well-known!

Thanks a million!
 
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