by Wiehan Visagie
Lambing in the dry season in Zambia is certainly a challenge, especially if it is during a drought period. The effect of drought causes the ewes to reach lambing at a lower condition score and even if farmers feed more supplements, the ewes struggle to produce sufficient milk to achieve good lamb growth.
During these circumstances the lambs may be below the required body weights, which could affect their performance and survival rates. What also happens, is that the ewes compete at the feed troughs and they leave only small quantities of supplements for the lambs to eat. The only way to increase the intake of supplemental feeds for lambs is to invest in a technique called ‘creep feeding’.
The best way to approach this period is to start with setting target weaning weights on the farm. This should be done at the end of the growing season just before the quality and quantity of the pasture declines. On low quality pasture it is desirable that the lambs reach a minimum target weight to ensure their survival. Research on minimum target weaning weights indicate that when lambs are weaned under 20 kg their mortality rate can be as high as 50%.
From Table 1 below, the relationship between live weight at weaning and survival can be observed on Merino lambs grazing on dry pasture. The ideal weight for weaners is 25 kg, but during drought periods every farmer should be aiming to wean at 20 kg. It is therefore essential to spend time and energy during the post-weaning period to help the lamb gain weight to reach the required 25 kg.
Table 1: Survival of Merino weaners grazing on dry pastures
Introducing our Novatek Lamb Maker Concentrate for lambs is a good option for farmers with low quality forage and it will help them to finish quicker and be marketed sooner. Mixing of this concentrate is essential and the farmer can use maize bran, sunflower and soy bean meal to develop his own on-farm creep feed. The creep feed must be supplemented in such a way that the ewes are excluded. This will allow the lambs to feed separately and assist them in gaining more weight. Lambs that are introduced to creep feed can be expected to gain 1 kg live weight for every five to six kg of creep feed consumed compared to unsupplemented lambs.
The only way lambs are able to find the feed is through a ‘creep’ that prevents ewes and bigger lambs from accessing the creep feed. This could be done by opening up a small part of the fence or a gate that is only big enough for the lambs to pass through and feed without disturbance. Some of the meshed reinforcements used in the construction sector have just the right sized openings to be used for creep feeding. Providing the lambs with creep feed will help the farmer to stop feeding the ewes one week before weaning and encourage the lambs to eat more creep feed. This will benefit the farmer by being able to introduce the rams back to the ewes earlier.
Please feel free to contact Wiehan Visagie at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marné Meyer at nutritionist@ novatek.co.zm for all information on feeding and feeds.