Lambing season: A time of excitement and a promise of the future. We can all relate to the joy of new lambs on the ground. But each shepherd has their own unique stories of newborn lambs and individual strategies for giving lambs a solid start. Kathy Chinderle’s story is one for the books–and one that we can learn from.
Kathy Chinderle lives in the small town of Ash Grove, Missouri. She woke up early one day this spring to feed and take care of her animals just like any other day. Little did she know this was going to be a day to remember.
That day, Chinderle went to the barn and noticed one of her ewes lambing. She watched the first lamb be born. Then, every five minutes, another lamb was born. In twenty minutes, she had four. Chinderle was pleased and excited because she had never had quadruplets. Then, the seemingly impossible happened: her ewe gave birth to a fifth lamb.
Only one in one million ewes will give birth to quintuplets, and it has never been reported that all five survived. To beat the odds and help the five lambs thrive, Chinderle looked to proven lamb nutrition and management practices. She ensured the lambs received colostrum and selected a lamb-specific milk replacer to provide the nutrients they need. These choices helped set-up the lambs for a productive future.
Just like all lambs, the first few days were the most challenging for the quintuplets. In fact, industry estimates suggest that 20 percent of lambs die before weaning, with most of these deaths happening before the first ten days of life. Tom Earleywine, Ph.D., Director of Nutritional Services for Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products Co. says this early stage of life is when lambs are most vulnerable, having not fully developed their immune systems.
“Colostrum, or the first milk of lactation, is an essential step in providing this first protection to newborns,” he says. “We compare colostrum to ‘liquid gold,’ because it is the only method by which lambs can receive protective antibodies at birth.”
“Not all colostrum is created equally, though,” Earleywine adds. “Colostrum quality can be impacted by the age and health of the ewe, environmental conditions and many other factors. To ensure lambs receive the quality colostrum they require, be sure to test colostrum with a colostrometer or refractometer or feed a high quality colostrum replacer labeled for lambs.”
After Chinderle ensured the quintuplets had received enough colostrum; her next step was to find a quality milk replacer. She spoke with her local feed store representative who recommended Ultra Fresh Optimum lamb milk replacer.
Chinderle says they recommended Ultra Fresh because it is made specifically for lambs.
“This distinction is important, because, when scientifically compared, the nutrient levels in ewe’s milk are distinctly different than cow’s or goat’s milk,” Earleywine adds, explaining that Ultra Fresh is formulated to closely mimic ewe's milk.
Many shepherds have asked, “How do growth rates from Ultra Fresh compare to growth rates from ewe’s milk?” Researchers at Cornell University have studied this question and concluded that the results are surprisingly similar. When lambs were compared, those on Ultra Fresh and those getting ewe’s milk both reached nearly the same final weight at day 30. Because of nutritional variances in ewe’s milk from the lactation cycle, lambs fed Ultra Fresh ended up having more consistent nutrition and a slightly higher growth rate.
Why are these early nutrients important? Because they set the stage for long-term performance, for instance, in the dairy cattle industry, feeding quality nutrition to calves from day one has been shown to impact lifetime milk performance.
Here is some information to support the case for early complete nutrition and how it leads to a healthy productive animal: Researchers have found that calves fed to a higher plane of nutrition calve 22 days earlier on average and produce 1,700 pounds more milk in their first lactation. In fact, eight University trials show that calves fed a higher plane of nutrition from birth to weaning had higher milk production in their first lactation than those that were not.
“This research shows that solid nutrition paves the way for a productive future,” says Earleywine. “This is great news for both the miracle quintuplet sheep in Missouri and dairy sheep producers across the country.”
To learn more about lamb nutrition and management, visit www.lolmilkreplacer.com, We Care for Lambs on Facebook or contact Dr. Tom Earleywine at (800) 618-6455.