SHEEP farmers have been reminded of three key areas to focus on as they prepare to wean this year’s crop of lambs.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), which is leading the five-year Stoc+ project, is advising farmers that best practice in flock and herd health management can pay big dividends.

By eight weeks of age, lambs’ energy intake comes mainly from eating grass, with a low amount of energy coming from the ewes’ milk. Weaning usually takes place between 12-14 weeks after lambing, however there are a range of factors that influence farmers’ decisions on the best timing for their flock.

According to HCC flock and herd health officer, Lowri Williams, keeping an eye on three factors – weight, pasture and vaccination – can help to wean at the right time, promote the health of both the ewes and the lambs, and ensure on-farm efficiency.

“Before weaning, while the lambs are still with the ewes, vets recommend vaccinating lambs against clostridial diseases,” said Lowri. “Ewes’ colostrum will only provide protection for between three and four months, therefore this is the ideal time to act to prevent conditions such as black disease.”

She added: “Pasture management is also important at this time. Lambs should be turned out to clean pastures which haven’t been grazed for a few months, as there will tend to be a low level of internal parasite larvae.

"Ewes’ grazing should be restricted to stop milk production, while keeping an eye out for mastitis.”

“The most crucial element is that lambs’ weights need to be monitored, to help ensure the right timing

“Research has suggested that if lambs’ daily weight gain is below 200g they should be weaned sooner rather than later to ensure they receive sufficient nutrients.

"An accurate assessment of lambs’ weight also helps ensure that vaccination and worming doses are as effective as possible.”

A wide range of literature, including the Sheep Health handbook, is available in the resources section of the HCC website,

The Stoc+ flock and herd health project is one strand of HCC’s red meat development programme, a five-year strategic initiative designed to improve the Welsh red meat industry’s efficiency and profitability.