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Lamb Artificial Rearing Checklist

Livestock Update, January 1997

Steve Umberger, Animal and Poultry Sciences

Artificial rearing of lambs does not have to be labor intensive or accompanied by high levels of lamb death loss. With 1996 average lamb prices in excess of $.91 per pound, every lamb saved results in increased profitability for the producer. Advances in the production of high quality commercial lamb milk replacers, techniques that reduce labor through the use of self-feeding equipment, the use of early weaning, and the application of certain well-timed management practices make artificial rearing a practical and profitable alternative. Using results from a Virginia Tech study, the actual time necessary to adjust 50 or fewer lambs to milk replacer, mixing milk replacer, cleaning equipment, and the general observation of lambs for health and thriftiness is approximately 1.5 hours daily. With a retail price of $30 for a 25 lb bag of milk replacer, lambs reared artificially can be successfully weaned to dry feed at an average cost of approximately $25 per head. Using average flock production costs in Virginia, the cost of twin-born lambs reared on the ewe to the same live weight as lambs reared artificially is $25 to 30 per head. Therefore, with proper management, orphan or mismothered lambs can be successfully reared on milk replacer at a similar cost to the ewe. Consequently, sheep producers with flocks having a high percentage of multiple births should consider artificial rearing on a self-feeding system as a means to save more lambs and increase profitability through a higher percentage of lambs marketed. Shown below is an artificial rearing checklist for lambs reared on self-feeding buckets. For more information, contact a local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office.

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