Friday, January 29, 1999
FULL TEXT PAPER
Weaning Management of Lambs and Ewes is Important
by Dr. Gary E. Ricketts
Weaning lambs should not be done on impulse, but should
be a well-planned activity. This is a critical period in
the management of your flock and it should not be taken
lightly. If you wake up some morning and decide it would
be a good day to wean lambs, then reconsider. There are
several things that need to be done ahead of time before
you separate the ewes and lambs. The following
suggestions may help minimize your weaning problems:
- Lambs should be vaccinated for Enterotoxemia
(Overeating Disease) at approximately 30 days of age
with Clostridium CD Toxoid. A booster shot should be
given two to three weeks later and definitely before
weaning. This second shot is critical and should not
- Lambs should be eating creep well prior to weaning.
The level of concentrate consumption prior to
weaning has a big effect on weaning stress.
- Sixty days is a very common weaning age unless ewes
and lambs are going to pasture. Most ewes hit their
peak milk production three to four weeks after
lambing and then begin to decrease. This is one of
the reasons why creep consumption usually picks up
dramatically from four weeks on. By 60 days after
lambing, many ewes will be producing less than half
of the amount of milk they produced at peak
- Starting a week before you plan to wean your lambs,
feed the ewes only roughage and no grain or protein
supplement. This will help to dry up the ewes more
rapidly, force the lambs to eat more creep, wean the
lambs with a minimum of stress, and minimize udder
problems after weaning.
- During the last two days before you wean, the day
you wean, and the day after weaning, limit the ewes'
water consumption. Allow them access to water only
twice a day. However, be sure the lambs have plenty
of water. During this period you will need to have
water available in the creep.
- There is less weaning stress on the lambs if you
remove the ewes from the lambs, and leave the lambs
in the same area rather than vice versa. The lambs
are familiar with where the feeders, mineral box,
and water are located. Therefore, there is less drop
in feed and water consumption than when lambs are
moved to a strange area. It is best if the ewes and
lambs are far enough apart that they can't hear each
- In the process of separating ewes and lambs, use a
good working facility and handle the sheep in a
slow, gentle manner. Everything should be done in
such a way as to minimize stress on the lambs.
- Be sure the newly weaned lambs have plenty of clean,
fresh water at all times.
- Weigh lambs at weaning time so you can calculate
60-day adjusted weights. This will help you to
evaluate the lambs, their mothers, and their
- Watch ewes carefully after weaning. Very thin ewes
should be brought up in condition after they are
dried up. This is especially true for first lambing
Remember that weaning should be a well-planned activity.
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