Grain Feeding Lambs
As lambs continue to hit record prices week after week, its timely to look at grain feeding and the pros and cons that come with full grain diets. Lambs require essential vitamins and minerals to continue their growth which is why it’s important to understand the way a lamb’s rumen and digestive system works.
A lamb’s digestive system is built to digest grass, hay and various types of roughage however when it comes to any type of grain-based diet, the microbes within the rumen need extra time to adjust to the change in feed. Introducing lambs onto grain should be a process, MLA recommend that the “introduction to new feed requires careful management to avoid digestive problems and health issues. Introduce grain-based diets slowly over a minimum of 14 days, longer for high starch grains (21–28 days)” is the key. During the time lambs are introduced to grain-based diets, they also suggest that “high quality roughage should also be provided” to assist with the transition. Using hay, straw or any other type of roughage, the lambs are able to attain fibre which “stimulates rumen motility and saliva production, providing natural buffering (maintaining required pH levels) of the rumen environment and should make up a minimum of 10% of the total ration.”
One health issue that is common when introducing grain is lactic acidosis or grain poisoning. MLA advise that the “acidosis risk of grains is dependent on their starch content. The order of risk from high to low is wheat, triticale, barley, beans/peas, oats and lupins. Roughage-based pellets are less likely to cause acidosis than grain-based pellets.” To ensure producers are aware of the signs and symptoms of lactic acidosis, the “early signs of acidosis are stiff-leggedness with lameness. Scouring is a late sign after rumen pH has fallen considerably. Other symptoms may include loss of appetite, evidence of pain and death.” Through the careful introduction to a grain-based diet, producers can avoid losses and reduce health issues amongst their stock. Furthermore, to allow producers to make a profit from grain feeding lambs, MLA recommend that “lambs generally need to be growing in excess of 300g/day to be profitable” however “the efficiency at which lambs convert feed to liveweight gain further influences profitability.” When creating a feed plan and budget, it’s essential all considerations are taken into account to avoid a loss in profit once the lambs reach their target weights and are sold.
Health issues in lambs such as lactic acidosis was the reason BROOKFIELD originally designed their Sheep Feeder. The ability to have a feeder that can be used from backgrounding right through to feedlotting assists producers to manage the grain feeding process with ease. The multi-purpose use of the BROOKFIELD Sheep Feeder allows the same feeder to be used for hay, grain, backgrounding and feedlotting, making it perfect for mixed farm enterprises as well as assisting in preventing health issues such as lactic acidosis.
To discuss your on farm stock feeding requirements and how a BROOKFIELD Sheep Feeder can assist, please give us a call on 1800 774 274.
Meat & Livestock Australia, A producers’ guide to production feeding for lamb growth, http://www.makingmorefromsheep.com.au/_literature_161368/Mod_3_Production_feeding_lambs