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Author Topic: To wean .... or not to wean?  (Read 1458 times)

milliebecks

  • Joined Sep 2015
To wean .... or not to wean?
« on: July 12, 2016, 06:28:52 pm »
I'm confused (again!) ....
I have 14 shetland lambs, born between 3rd and 29th April. They all seem to be doing well. Some of the ewes, however, are beginning to look a bit thin. My grass isn't great, but there seems to be enough of it.
As I'm new to this, I've been reading lots and asking advice from the old hands. I've read all the weaning archive on this forum.

My question is .... on what do I base my decision to leave them to it, or take the lambs off .... and if the latter ... when?
From what I've read/been told there are arguments for and against -  leaving them until sale time is better because they do best on milk and there is less risk of mastitis ... or, I should wean because the lambs can fail to thrive as the milk quality deteriorates. I've seen everything from 60 days to 18 weeks as the 'right' time to wean.

It may help to say that I have not been creep feeding, although the ewes come readily to the bucket and so some of the (older) lambs have joined them at the trough when I call them in.
I won't be selling until the beginning of November.
I think I have 2 riggs  ::)
I am planning to introduce a bought in tup lamb at some point in the next month.

Sorry to be long winded, but I'm just not sure what to do for the best ..... :-\
Voss Electric Fence

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2016, 06:32:45 pm »
Have they been wormed and fluked recently?
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

milliebecks

  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2016, 07:08:50 pm »
Yes, they had Albex at the end of May, Heptavac course is complete and Crovect last week when I finished clipping the ewes.
That's another question ... should they have a second worm dose? ..... when? ......with a different product?
(Sorry .... that's 3 more questions!)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2016, 08:05:42 pm »
Normally adult ewes shouldn't need worming again, but if they're thin....

Mostly we expect a worm dose to last 6-8 weeks, I guess.

Albex can be used as a wormer, or as a worm+flukicide.  Do you know which dose level you used?

Have you any hay you can offer?  If they take hay, they're hungry.  Personally I might start giving a little cake to the thinner ewes, assuming you don't have any better grass you can put them on.

With primitives, 3 months is quite early to wean, but the lambs will be fine if the ewes need the rest.  And if the grass is poor, and it's just overwork that the ewes are losing condition, then you'd be unlikely to get mastitis if you took the lambs off - and frankly more likely to get mastitis if you leave the lambs on, and they're constantly at their mothers' teats trying to get more milk.

You have somewhere to put the weaned lambs? 
« Last Edit: July 12, 2016, 08:52:14 pm by SallyintNorth »
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

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2016, 08:43:50 pm »
Our regime is: Primitive lambs born in April; tup and wether lambs weaned at 4 months so mid to late August; ewe lambs are often left in for another month for the ewes to wean them naturally (but if the ewes were thin as you say yours are, then all lambs would be weaned at 4 months).  All lambs out by 5 months, which gives the ewes a full 2 months to recover before going to the tup in November.
We allow our Primitives to breed at the natural time of year (tupping in Nov, lambing in April when the grass is growing), so we would not be putting a breeding tup in before Nov, especially with the ewes in poor condition.

You will be getting different advice from different sources because larger breeds and commercial sheep have a different regime, where lambs can go off for slaughter at as young as 3 months, straight off the mother.  It is beneficial to lamb early for commercial breeds because early lambs fetch a better price.  With the Primitives, which includes Shetlands, they are usually not large enough before the winter to go to the abattoir, they put on very little condition over the winter, then fatten on good spring grass and are ready for slaughter at 15 or 16 months.  As it costs the same to slaughter a tiny lamb as a larger one, and if you have enough grass or can rent land to fatten them, then you will get a much better return for the older lamb. Lamb meat at 16 months has matured slowly and is a specialty product.
For selling Shetlands as breeding stock, you are entering a very crowded market, so as an unknown breeder you will not get the best prices for your stock.  Better to keep fewer ewes and sell top quality animals as shearlings. That way you can slowly establish yourself as a good breeder.

For worming - for a new breeder, not knowing your land well, you might be best to worm your ewes on delivery, then the lambs either at a couple of months or sooner if they're looking drawn and peaky, or scouring.  Our land is remarkably worm free, so we worm at weaning and at point of sale.   Other than that, you should start a pattern of sending off FECs (Faecal Egg Count) at regular intervals to monitor your worming needs.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2016, 08:47:54 pm by Fleecewife »
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milliebecks

  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2016, 01:53:21 pm »
Thank you both. That's really helpful. I'm thinking that with shetlands and not the best 'commercial' grass, the ideal is to leave them with the ewes for as long as is practical. I have some other grass I can move them to, although it's got a bit long as we've been building a barn in that paddock, so I'm not sure how nutritious it will be. I'll keep a close eye on the thinner ewes. They haven't been wormed since we turned them out  after lambing, (they had cydectin triclamox) and both ewes and lambs had a worm and fluke dose at the respective times. I think I'll speak to my vet about faecal egg counts .... it would be reassuring to know what I'm up against.
As far as my new tup lamb is concerned, will he do OK in with the ewes and lambs, or will he cause problems?  He's weaned already, but will he pester the ewes or will they give him a hard time? Or, I wean my four tup lambs in a month or so and put them in together .... in which case, can I leave the tup's ewes in with the remaining ewes and lambs or will they kick off?
I can't help thinking, if I had twice as much land and four times as many fences, this would be easier .... :-\

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2016, 02:23:02 pm »
After the initial arty baggy of introducing any new sheep to an established group, your new lad should be fine - he won't get anywhere with the ewes until they start cycling.  However, he probably would be happier until then with a peer group, if that's easy for you to arrange.
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

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: To wean .... or not to wean?
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2016, 02:24:01 pm »
You could put out a feed lick for your ewes, so any that aren't getting enough nutrition from the grass could top up.
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

 
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