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Author Topic: Allowing ewes to self wean  (Read 758 times)

Bramham Wiltshire Horns

  • Joined Oct 2014
  • leeds
  • Bramham flock Wiltshire Horns
Allowing ewes to self wean
« on: June 26, 2019, 08:44:09 am »
HI

my lambs are all now between 90 and 105 days old they avaerage around 38kg, all Wiltshire horns

i have a decent amount of grass and was planning on weaning at 120 days

i dont have an indoor area to bring in to dry off

i have noticed a couple of ewes udders are starting to dry off and reduce in size i add them in the other day and had a feel and no lumpy bits or signs of mastitis so it had me think

is there less chance of ewes getting mastitis when self weaning as the lambs are gradually coming off the ewe

i know some people wean earlier, the ewes seem to be gaing decent condition already, i am lambing in April next year rather than March due to going to Oz

what are the pros and cons of allowing the sheep to self wean


many thanks
Voss Electric Fence

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2019, 09:46:48 am »
Most ewes will start to wean lambs off as they get fed up of them... but it always surprises me when I take the first couple of draws of fat lambs how much their mothers bag up after the lambs have gone, even if the udder didn't look very big before the lambs went. I either keep them in for a few days or turn out in a bare field or paddock- I drew lambs last night and the ewes are out on a bare field cut for silage last week.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2019, 10:21:43 am »
We take off the male lambs at 4 months, then leave the ewe lambs with the mothers.  They have all been weaned, by the mothers, by 5 months.  We have never had problems with mastitis etc, even with those who have had twin tup lambs so effectively been weaned before the ewes were totally dry.  I would think it might depend on the breed;  ours are Hebrideans, but we have used this routine with Shetlands, Jacobs and various crosses with equal success.
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Bramham Wiltshire Horns

  • Joined Oct 2014
  • leeds
  • Bramham flock Wiltshire Horns
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2019, 03:11:39 pm »
thanks for the reply

thats my thoughts wean at 120 days keep the gimmers with the ewes

i was thinking of moving them to better grass at that point but it maybe best leaving them on the poorer grass a little longer then to avoid them bagging back up

i will take the tups off and that will keep each ewe with at least 1 gimmer to wean

the Wilts are pretty good at getting back in condition once weaned

thanks again

ann_of_loxley

  • Joined Jun 2018
  • Cumbria UK
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2019, 07:57:16 pm »
It doesn't seem a functional thing for people who farm sheep for a living (you know, from a business perspective).  However, as much as I practice them myself, support farmers, work for farmers, etc ...  Most of it pretty much goes against nature!  Just being honest there... 
Personally, I am all for self weaning.  Mammals have managed that stuff for thousands of years without our assistance!  But then I just keep sheep for the love and fun of them and not because I am relying on an income from them so I have the time to allow for this.  Not a single issue so far! :) 

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2019, 09:54:37 am »
The only time I tried to self wean my Zwartbles, lambed in January, I had to take the lambs away to put the ram in.  The ewes were still feeding them.  Maybe if they had over wintered together and the ewes only bred from alternate years it would have worked.  The other alternative would have to put the lambs in lamb but that would have been to their father.

Having had a mare that arrived with her 3 year old son still feeding from her I am doubtful that with such a milky breed self weaning would have worked in every case.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2019, 12:52:30 pm »
The only time I tried to self wean my Zwartbles, lambed in January, I had to take the lambs away to put the ram in.  The ewes were still feeding them.  Maybe if they had over wintered together and the ewes only bred from alternate years it would have worked.  The other alternative would have to put the lambs in lamb but that would have been to their father.

Having had a mare that arrived with her 3 year old son still feeding from her I am doubtful that with such a milky breed self weaning would have worked in every case.

I’d agree.  Dairy cows tend to milk on until specifically dried up, pure suckler mostly self-wean at 9-10 months or when the grass stops growing or when the new calf is a month away.  Although they don’t all, and we have had the occasional suckler feeding last year’s as well as the newborn, so we have had to intervene. 

Not all ewes will self-wean, and they absolutely can and do cycle and get pregnant while still feeding. So weaning lambs is a function of your system - if you want the lambs to benefit from the fogs after haymaking, you probably want to wean them first; if you don’t tup ewe lambs then the girls need weaned off before the tup, and so on. 

It’s not correct to say that all commercial farmers wean.  On the Cumbrian hill farm, we sold the vast majority of our lambs fat straight from their mothers, always getting any entire males away first, then mostly wethers and finally ewe lambs not required for replacements, so weaning the remainder - replacement ewe lambs and slower maturing lambs - when it happened a month before tupping was no major drama.  Some years we might wean earlier; if there wasn’t enough good grass and the lambs would need fed better than their mums, for instance.  Because stressing lambs causes them a check in growth, most say of two weeks, then for us it made more economic sense to not wean unless we needed to.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Bramham Wiltshire Horns

  • Joined Oct 2014
  • leeds
  • Bramham flock Wiltshire Horns
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2019, 07:44:10 am »
Thanks for the replies wilts has bags like dairy cattle when they are full of milk ???? the lambs are coming up to 120 days and the last 2 have almost finished weaning you can see the bags sreducing almost daily now
I’ve had a feel of the ewes that have weaned and no hard limpy udders or signs of mastitis


Me

  • Joined Feb 2014
  • Wild West
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2019, 10:41:04 am »
Growth rates tend to be poorer post 12 weeks if you don't wean, certainly 16 weeks

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2019, 12:22:43 pm »
Growth rates tend to be poorer post 12 weeks if you don't wean, certainly 16 weeks

That may not be inconsistent with what I said, in that we would get the majority of our lambs away before 20 weeks, and quite a lot before 16 weeks, so the not-check of non-weaning would mostly outweigh or balance any slowing in growth rate post 16 weeks if not weaned. 

I guess if they are still taking on milk, they’re eating less grass (and cake, if offered), and once the rumen is fully developed they will get increasingly more benefit from grass and cake than from milk.

Interesting topic, thanks for the question!
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2019, 11:19:02 am »
I'm planning to wean the tup lambs at 16 weeks, then they can go off with the tup and his wether companion. I'm going to leave the ewe lambs to self-wean. That gives me only two grazing groups to accommodate. Ryelands are pretty good at holding condition, especially in years like then when there's tonnes of grass.

Bramham Wiltshire Horns

  • Joined Oct 2014
  • leeds
  • Bramham flock Wiltshire Horns
Re: Allowing ewes to self wean
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2019, 11:08:56 am »
Hi
i am getting them in today to weigh the first group @120 days all these lambs are females, i will get the ewes in as well and see where they are at weaning give them all a good MOT check udders and trim feet etc


i will give the lambs all a good looking over to see which i will be keeping for breeding, i wont decide until until later in the year to see how they develope but i will have a good idea 

 

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