PLENTY of grass and forage in 2019 contributed to good ewe condition at tupping time, and scanning results suggest that many farmers can expect more twins and triplets this season.

Donald Macleod, Cargill's sheep nutritionist in the North of England and Scotand, said: "There are more ewes than usual with multiples in quite a few flocks, so there’s potential for a good crop of lambs this season. Farmers should be prepared for more twins and triplets, and ready to help get these lambs off to a good start."

He said preparations should start before lambing. "Ewes should be fed according to scanning results, especially in the final stages of pregnancy. Those with twins and triplets need extra supplementation to ensure good quality and plentiful colostrum."

If ewes are short of milk, or if there’s a weaker, smaller lamb – which can often be the situation with triplets – then they may need an alternative food source.

"We recommend using a feeding system that can supply warm, high quality milk ad lib to a group of lambs," said Mr Macleod. "This is far easier than bottle feeding and produces more uniform lambs. We know, from our experience with farmers who use the Shepherdess lamb feeding system, that growth rates are on par with those reared on the ewe."

The Shepherdess lamb feeder can support up to 20 lambs and has an in-built heated element to keep the milk at an optimum temperature 24/7.

"It’s highly reliable and consistent - and it is not labour intensive which is important during the busy lambing season. It is vital that lambs have ad lib access to milk in the feeder and, depending on numbers being fed off the feeder, it may need topping up during the day."

Mr Macleod stressed the importance of maximising growth rates in the first few weeks. "Feed efficiency is very high in these early days, and, if conditions are good, the lamb will convert a high proportion of milk into growth. The addition of a creep feed, from five days of age and fed little and often, will encourage rumen development and minimise the growth check at weaning."

He said chopped straw from the first week of life is the ideal roughage source, although hay can also be used providing it is not long, unchopped, green hay which can lead to lambs having a pot-bellied appearance. Water should always be available to lambs.

The Shepherdess lamb feeding system includes a lamb colostrum, a lamb milk replacer and the Shepherdess feeder.

Mr Macleod said: "Shepherdess colostrum is disease-free, and its lamb milk is very carefully formulated for optimal digestion in the young lamb. It provides an effective alternative to ewe’s milk."