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By Adam May,

Mole Valley Farmers’ Red Meat Team

TREATING lambs like a cash crop and growing them as quickly and economically as possible is a must and is reliant on feeding the right type of supplementation and keeping them healthy.

We need to grow lambs to meet market requirements and high daily live weight gains (DLWG) can’t be achieved without creep feed.

A lamb’s growth rate is at its best in infancy, during while the ewe’s milk peaks in quantity and quality after about 4-5 weeks. As it gets older, the lamb needs supplementation for growth optimisation and could be taking 50% of its daily nutritional requirements from dry feed, which will also help to develop the rumen.

The feed

When choosing a creep feed, look for energy levels of around 12.5-13 ME and 18% crude protein, plus good undegradable protein sources.

The efficiency of feed conversion will vary from 4:1 before weaning, to 12:1 post-weaning. As lambs get older, typical DLWG ranges from 300-400g, but this will vary according to grass quality and quantity.

This is another reason to creep feed your lambs – to take the pressure off the grazing rotation and allow heavier stocking rates. Creep-fed lambs are going to mature before grass-fed lambs, so will hit the early markets and, hopefully, command a better price than their grass-fed counterparts.

It’s also important to include ammonium chloride in any creep feed to help prevent urinary calculi (more commonly known as kidney stones or gravel). This condition affects male lambs, stopping them from urinating and causing fluid build up, which can cause death and subsequent loss of income.

It is also essential to ensure all lambs have continual access to fresh, clean water.

The feeder

When choosing to site your creep feeder, many things should be taken into account. Try and find a sheltered, dry standing area and provide enough creep to prevent overcrowding, which can cause suffocation.

The creep itself should be replenished frequently to encourage intakes. Move the creeps regularly to reduce the possibility of muck and soil contamination, which can cause problems with coccidiosis.

If coccidiosis does become a problem, obtain a prescription from your vet for a decoquinate, either as a direct drench or as an in-feed additive.