We are getting to that time of the year when its time to start weaning our lamb and goat kids. It is common for lambs and kids to experience weaning shock after they are weaned. This is when you notice them growing more slowly, losing weight or completely stop growing for a short time. This is a very stressful time for both moms and their offspring. I will be sharing with you some strategies on how to make this time a little less stressful, for not only our animals but for you.
Preparing for weaning starts early in life. Ruminants are born with an undeveloped rumen. Since the rumen for these animals has not had time to develop, they will not absorb the nutrients from the grain, but it is essential for lambs and kids to be exposed to hay and concentrates early in life. This ensures that their rumen will be properly developed by the time they reach weaning age. Rumen development is driven by the consumption of concentrates (grain) not by consuming hay or milk.
Deworming, castration, dehorning and tagging should happen before weaning to reduce the stress on the lambs and kids. If those tasks are not able to be completed before they are weaned those should happen a few weeks after weaning, by then the lambs and kids have adjusted to life without their mothers.
Lambs, kids should stay in pen they were raised
Leave the lambs and kids in the same pen where they were raised and remove the mothers. If you have the space, try not to intermingle groups and keep them in their same groups. This helps the babies because they know where their feed and water are, and they are comfortable in that pen. Always watch them closely after weans to make sure they are eating and drinking. Recently weaned lambs and kids are very susceptible to coccidiosis. It is recommended that a coccidiostat is given to them in their feed, mineral, or water prior to weaning. Most feeds are medicated with a coccidiostat which will be on the label what kind it is.
Lambs and kids should receive their CDT and any other vaccines before weaning. If their mother was given a CDT shot four to six weeks before she had them, the babies would need their first shot at five weeks old. If the mother was not given a CDT before she had them the babies would need their CDT shot at two weeks old. A booster is needed three to four weeks later after the first dose of CDT.
Prior to weaning, producers need to prepare the ewes and does. Hopefully by the time the lambs and kids are 8-10 weeks old the mothers milk production has slowed down, but it has not completely stopped. To help decrease milk production on the ewes and does you can remove all grain from their diet and switch to a low-quality hay. The mothers should stay on a low-quality hay until their udders begin to shrink and dry off. The first few days after weaning producers should check the udders for signs of unusual swelling or redness. This could be a sign of mastitis and should be treated quickly. Ewes and does should not be turned out to lush pasture after weaning. Spring forage is high in protein, water and other nutrients which will promote milk production.
Shelby Tedrow is an Agriculture & Natural Resources and 4-H Program Assisstant with OSU Extension and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-264-8722
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This article was previously published in The Daily Record.