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Maximising returns
from sheep
This event focused on two opportunities to
improve returns from sheep – artificial rearing of
lambs and improving the value of crossbred wool.
The state of the NZ shearing industry was also
discussed and tips provided to farmers around
attracting and retaining shearing staff.

Multiple Orphan Lamb Rearing

John Smart, Clutha Vets
Key drivers of the profitability of sheep systems are the
number of lambs weaned and the weight of lamb produced
per ewe. Improvements in genetic merit and feeding of ewes
have resulted in increases in scanning percentage.
As the fecundity of NZ ewe flocks increases, so does the
incidence of multiple-bearing ewes, and in particular those
bearing triplets (Figure 1).

Figure 2: Artificially reared lambs (Source: Kelly Liggett).

increasing lambing percentage. This is one of the key

drivers for implementing a lamb rearing system, in addition to
the desire to improve animal welfare outcomes. Rearing
lambs also reduces workload associated with mothering-up.
The aim of this newsletter is to provide a summary of the
information required to develop a successful and economic
Figure 1: Proportion of ewes producing singles, twins and triplets in
relation to number of lambs born.
lamb rearing system. Further information is available on the
Beef+Lamb NZ website and links to these resources are
The number of triplet-bearing ewes increases as lambing provided in the “Useful Links” section at the end of this
percentage increases above 140%. Triplet lambs have lower newsletter.
birth weight and much lower survival rates compared to
twins. Wastage rates therefore increase in association with

Meal troughs – provide two 1.5 metre lengths of V-shaped
Facilities wooden troughs per pen, preferably placed 150-200 mm off
The same principles for the artificial rearing of calves apply to the ground (but can be at ground level). Lengths of plastic
lambs – a warm, clean, dry and draught-free environment is spouting also make good troughs. There must be enough
best. Lambs should be reared in haysheds, implement room for all lambs to have access, especially post-weaning –
sheds or other sheds not previously used by adult sheep. a minimum of 300 mm length of trough per head is needed.
Ideally avoid any contact with sheep yards and woolsheds. Ad-lib access to straw or hay should be provided from day
This helps to reduce the chance of disease transmission. one. This can be obtained from the pen walls, or hung in
Woolsheds are not suitable because the slatted floor bundles off the ground.
promotes draughts. The shed must be closed on three sides
facing away from the prevailing wind, and ideally be open to Beware of all sharp objects, including the edges of troughs,
the north. If the housing is inferior ‘Woolover’ lamb covers wire nails and plastic as lambs are very vigorous feeders.
can be used, although this should be a last resort. Any lamb that is dribbling should be quickly identified and
treated with penicillin.
Pens can be made from straw bales, wire gates, plywood or
other solid material. Ideally pen divisions should be solid to
provide wind and rain shelter at ground level, but this is not
Lamb recruitment
absolutely necessary. If wire gates are used they can be No particular selection is necessary – any orphan lamb can
lined with windbreak cloth to lessen draughts. Drainage is be reared. In the case of triplets any “odd” sized lamb could
not usually an issue but pens should, if possible have a be selected (i.e. the runt of the litter, or a lamb that is larger
sloping floor of sand or clay. than its siblings). The survival rate of lambs weighing less
Allocate 10-12 lambs to each pen with 0.5 square metres of than 3.5 kg is low. Similarly, those that develop navel
space per lamb. Having smaller numbers per pen allows you infections and joint ill within the first week have a low survival
to keep a better eye on them initially. rate.

Bedding options include straw, shavings or sawdust. Straw Weak or comatose lambs should be revived by intra-
can get a bit mucky, so sawdust is the most preferable abdominal injection of 10 mL per kilogram of bodyweight of
option. 20% Dextrose, or by stomach tubing and placing the lamb in
a warmer.
Lambs need to be provided with unrestricted access to
drinking water.

Figure 3: Example of a lamb rearing system whereby gates and straw bales have been used for walls. Straw bales provide a dual benefit in
that they reduce draughts and also provide a source of fibre for the lambs, to assist with the development of the rumen (Source: John Smart).

It is probably best to assume that all orphan lambs have not
received colostrum so the first feed should be colostrum if b) Or give a subcutaneous injection of 30 mL per kg of
this is available – a total of 15% of body weight is required in preferably warmed Dextrose Saline (not 20%
the first 24 hours (so a 5 kg lamb needs 750 mL in total, Dextrose). Inject over the ribs on both sides &
given in three feeds of 250 mL per feed). Cow colostrum that massage in well.
has been frozen is also suitable, or they could be given a
Note: The intra-peritoneal route (a) gives better results as it
dose of one of the commercially-available colostrum
works more quickly and it is also quicker to administer. Both
powders. Thawing and warming the frozen liquid colostrum
techniques are superior to stomach tubing since the digestive
is best done by placing the sealed container in a warm water
system is “shut down” in lambs in these dire straits (as well
bath and allowing it to heat through slowly.
as being quicker to perform).
New lambs are placed in their allocated pen immediately and
The 20% Dextrose solution, syringe and needle should be
taught to drink in this area. After two days lambs should be
carried as part of the lambing shepherds gear, as the
regrouped according to size and suckling ability.
procedure is best done by the shepherd immediately out in
the paddock rather than delay the procedure until back at the
Dextrose intra-peritoneal technique lamb warmer (as some lambs will succumb in the meantime).
Because conditions are usually not as clean as we would like
Lambs aged five hours or more that are suffering from
a preventative dose of penicillin (1–2 mL Ovipen) should be
exposure have a greater chance of recovery if they receive
given at the same time. Once the lamb has recovered it
an injection of Dextrose before they are warmed. This is
should be given a feed of colostrum.
because they have already used up the store of energy they
were born with trying to stay warm, and warming them when
energy stores are exhausted can hasten their death. The Alternative use for dextrose
Dextrose can be given by one of two ways: As well as being used to revive totally collapsed lambs as
a) An intra-peritoneal (intra-abdominal) injection of 10 mL described above, some farmers have been using it more as a
per kg of (preferably warmed, but cold is okay) sterile preventative. If on the daily rounds they see a ewe with a set
20% Dextrose. Hold the lamb by its front legs or sit it of twins and one of the twins is “looking dodgy” but not yet
on its backside between your legs or it can simply be actually collapsed, they inject the suspect-looking twin with
lying on its side on the ground. Note – the Dextrose dextrose as described above but leave it there. This avoids
must be 20% strength. Unfortunately, 20% Dextrose the work of having to catch the ewe and lambs to bring them
has been taken off the market. It now comes only as all in (and the resultant mis-mothering that can occur), and
40% strength in a 500ml flexi-pack with a draw-off tube results in reduced losses of the weaker lamb in a set of
attached. Remove half (250 mL) and discard. Then multiples.
add 250 mL of boiled tap water to make 20% strength.
The easiest way is to administer it is to connect a
vaccinating gun (10 mL plastic guns are available at the Feeding
clinic) to the draw-off tube or you can use a 60 mL
syringe and draw the dose out of the port in the flexi- Products
pack. Using a short 18-gauge needle (no longer than Whey-based lamb milk replacers appear to give the most
½ an inch – a ⅜ inch one used for vaccinating is ideal) consistent results. They seem to result in less digestive
inject into the lamb’s abdomen in the midline between upsets (scours) than other whole milk powders, possibly
the end of the sternum (rib cage) and the navel with as because they are closer in composition to actual ewe’s milk
much hygiene as practical – perhaps spray the area than some of the whole milk powders, and also the vegetable
with iodine. Make sure the Dextrose goes right into the fats are easier to digest. Additionally, whey-based
abdominal cavity, not just under the skin. With the formulations are easier to mix and clean equipment up
second or subsequent packs of 40% Dextrose the following their use (and they are usually a bit cheaper).
250 mL removed can be put into the empty earlier pack Whey-based products include Ovitop, 30% fat (vegetable
and made up to 20% as described. oils), 20% protein (soy and wheat), 35% lactose, vitamins
and minerals from Denkavit, which due to “obstruction” by
Fonterra has been impossible to obtain for several years;
and SprayFo Primo Lamb from AgriVantage which has a
slightly lower fat % than Ovitop.
In terms of lamb meal, try either Sgt Dan lamb meal (a
ground pelletised palatable meal, 20% protein & an ME of
14), or Moozlee (a high-quality steam flaked texture feed,
18% protein and an ME of 12.5). Both of these products
contain a coccidiostat, which helps to prevent coccidiosis.
These meals are very palatable and no attempt should be
made to substitute alternative products unless you are
certain they are of equivalent specification and palatability.
Meal fed should not contain palm kernel, copra meal or
tapioca as lambs don’t like it. Provide fresh water and feed
hay ad lib.

Figure 4: John Smart demonstrating the correct site for the 20%
Dextrose intra-peritoneal injection – mid-way between the end of the
rib cage and the naval.

Feeding regime
Lambs need at least 10–15% of their bodyweight in milk
daily, so:
• Lambs <4kg need 500–600 mL/day
• Lambs 4kg need 600 mL/day
• Lambs >5kg need 800 mL/day.
Mixing rate = 200 grams per litre.
Temperature: Very warm i.e. 35-40C.
Daily schedule:
• Day 1: 125 mL, 4 -5 times daily (for a 4kg lamb)
• Day 2–4: 250 mL, 3 times daily
• Day 5–11: 300 mL, 3 times daily
• Day 11–21: 400 mL, 2 times daily
• Day 22–30: 600-800 mL, once a day (see later section on Figure 6: Example multi-feeder (Source: John Smart).
abomasal bloat).

Feeders Feeding milestones

Lambs should be bottle-fed individually at the start – they Sgt Dan Lamb Meal (or Moozlee) should be made available
learn to suckle very quickly (no more than 2 days). They can from day one. Keep fresh and topped up twice a day. Some
then be bottle fed in rack systems or fed via a multiple lambs appear to get on to the Sgt Dan meal quicker than the
feeder. Start on soft teats and once feeding well move to Moozlee, with others the reverse seems to apply.
hard teats. Regardless, the more palatable the meal is to begin with the
better. You can take advantage of the lamb’s natural
Rack feeders: with rack feeders such as the Lamb Bar tendency to want to continue feeding after their bottle is
system each lamb gets access only to its allocated amount of finished by putting small amounts of meal into their mouths –
milk. Best fed in batches of 10 to 12 lambs for good this gets some of them onto meal quite quickly.
observation of suckling speed and milk intake.
Lambs to be placed outside with access to good quality
grass (1200-1800 kg DM/ha; 4-6 inches long) when they are
consuming 100 grams of meal per lamb per day – usually at
about 2½ to 3 weeks of age. The provision of suitable
pasture needs planned well ahead.
When on pasture three or four groups of lambs can be mixed
into groups of 30-50 depending on the teat feeding system
The best weaning criteria is meal consumption. Lambs can
be weaned off milk when they are consuming 200 g/day of
Moozlee/Sgt Dan or when they weigh 10-12kg. This is
usually between 4-5 weeks of age.
After weaning the concentrate consumption will likely
increase to around 400 g/day. Moozlee/Sgt Dan should be
available ad-lib and should be continued to be fed in
conjunction with grass at the rate of 400-700 g/day until
20 kg of weight at 8-10 weeks of age. Lambs can find these
Figure 5: Example rack feeder (Source: John Smart). meals very palatable and lamb intakes may need restricted
by around week 10 to 700 g/day.
Multi feeders: with multi feeders all lambs drinking get access
to the reservoir of milk so these are more suitable for use Lambs should be rotated around paddocks of high quality
after a week of age. Watch for slow and fast drinkers – pasture (not less than 1600 kg DM/ha) to encourage grass
rearrange into even drinking groups. Teats need to be at intake.
200 mm centres for lambs above 5-8 kg and 40-45 cm above
the ground. Design should be such that “greedy” lambs The above regime should result in about 5 kg of milk replacer
and 20 kg of concentrate being fed per lamb.
cannot push other lambs off the teat.

Ad-lib feeding
Where lambs are being ad-lib fed, initially feed the lambs a
restricted amount of milk (750 mL/day, as above) in three
feeds to identify any lambs not drinking well – relocate these
lambs if necessary. When all lambs in the group are drinking
well introduce them to the bulk ad-lib feeder.

Use one ad-lib feeder per 60 lambs. The feeder should have be done the first time the lamb is handled – i.e. in the
one teat for every five lambs with the teats at least 8 cm paddock.
apart and 40-45 cm above the ground. • Treat any swollen navels immediately with procaine
Milk should be fed cold to restrict milk intake and the penicillin at the rate of 1 mL daily for 5 days.
container should not be empty for longer than 2 hours. The • A prophylactic (preventative) dose of 1 mL of penicillin
daily milk intake is likely to be around 1-1.8 litres/day. can be given – (optional). This is more appropriate in
situations where you are getting large number of lambs
with infections but is not generally good practice if
Feeding cow’s milk infection rates are low.

The formulation of ewe’s milk is 30% fat, 23% protein and

27% lactose on a dry matter basis and a concentration of
200 g/litre in the liquid form. In comparison cow’s milk has
26% fat, 26% protein and 40-45% lactose on a dry matter
basis and a concentration of 125 g/litre in a liquid form.
Clearly cow’s milk is lower in fat and has excessive amounts
of lactose. Total dry matter and energy is also much lower.
Note: High levels of lactose may well be associated with an
increased susceptibility to abomasal bloat.
Cow’s milk can be modified to more closely resemble that of
ewes’ milk by the following methods:
• Add cream at the rate of 30 g/litre (though this may be
• Fortify with a lamb milk replacer to lift the concentration.
This can be done by adding 75 grams of replacer per
litre, or 7.5 kg per 100 litres of cow’s milk. The actual
brand of replacer is probably not too critical, but again the
whey-based powder with its higher fat level would
probably be best.
• Modify the lactose level by yoghurtising the milk. The Figure 7: It’s a good idea to have a written protocol displayed in the
Lactobacillus bacteria will use the lactose to make the lamb rearing shed, to ensure everyone dealing with the new lambs
yoghurt. This product will be thicker than milk and may follows the same procedure.
be harder to go through the teats. Works very well in Check:
calves. See below for instructions to yoghurtise the milk.
• Eyes for turned in eyelids (entropion).
Animal health • Joints for joint ill (navel infections).

If lambs are less than 24 hours old it is, as stated above, it is Sheds should be disinfected with a broad-spectrum
best to assume they have had no colostrum. For colostrum disinfectant (e.g. Envirosan, Sterigene, Virkon, Vetsan) prior
to be effective as far as disease prevention goes, lambs must to commencement, and then weekly thereafter. Also,
receive it preferably by <12 hours of age and certainly by no feeders and troughs should be regularly sprayed with
later than 24 hours of age. In order of preference give: disinfectant.

1. Actual ewe colostrum. Entropion

2. Commercial colostrum powders – contains
antibodies from ewe or cow colostrum. One or both of the lower eyelids is turned in resulting in
3. Stored cow colostrum. eye(s) that are watering and become cloudy. To treat
entropion, pull down on the eyelid to unroll it and apply some
When choosing a commercial colostrum powder, buy the one Terramycin powder. If eyelids invert again repeat the
with the highest immunoglobulin (IgG) levels. There can be unrolling and you can pinch the offending lower eyelid
large differences in IgG levels between products e.g.
Milligans ExcelPlus has 14% IgG, whereas JumpstartTM has
only 7% IgG. By paying a small amount extra you can get a
far more effective product.
If using cow colostrum, make sure you get Day 1 colostrum
(Day 3 colostrum has much less IgG). Colostrum can be
frozen and thawed as required. Just make sure you thaw it
slowly in warm water – microwaving colostrum will denature
the IgGs rendering them ineffective.
On arrival, each lamb is:
• Weighed and identified. If tagging, use an imprinted
number – tag pen numbers do not last in the suckling
• Navel sprayed with iodine, taking particular care to Figure 8: Entropion. (Source: John Smart, Clutha Vets).
ensure a drop forms on the end of the navel. This should

between your thumb and finger. This causes some swelling and off the teat a lot”. Treat with antibiotics for 5 days –
which helps the eyelid to stay “unrolled”. Alternatively inject contact vet for a suitable antibiotic.
0.5 mL of saline under the eyelid.
Foot scald
Navel infection or joint ill Again, not usually a common problem. Will show up as
Bacteria enter the bloodstream via the fresh navel and reddened inflamed skin between the hooves on one or more
commonly end up either in joints (causing an infective feet. Even quite severe cases respond well to penicillin
arthritis – joint ill), or in the liver and lungs (causing (Ovipen) given once at 1 mL per 10 kg bodyweight.
abscesses). In the case of joint ill, lambs will be lame and
one or more joints may be swollen. In cases of liver and/or Scours
lung abscesses, the lamb will have a temperature and be
There are, broadly speaking, two types of lamb scours –
noticeably sick.
nutritional and infectious. The vast majority of cases are the
To treat naval/joint ill, administer 2-3 mL penicillin (Ovipen) former – nutritional (or osmotic) and as such are generally
and repeat at least twice at 48-hour intervals. Infections of easily fixed.
navel origin are very common in the first 2 weeks. Joint ill
• Nutritional – occurs due to over feeding, cold feeding,
will likely require a longer treatment course.
the wrong mixing rates or dated milk powders. At the first
sign of a mild scour with the lamb still bright and drinking
increase the concentration of milk replacer being fed by
around 25% by cutting the water down but using the
same amount of milk powder. Reduce the volume fed for
two or three feeds as well. This will frequently stop the
scour but make sure the lamb has fresh water available
and watch for constipation as this can happen quite
• Infectious – is much less common than nutritional scours
– in non-weaned lambs they will likely die due to
Cryptosporidia, E. coli or Salmonella. An early diagnosis
is essential. Samples need to be submitted to a lab or
vet clinic. For infectious scours, or if the treatment for
nutritional scours isn’t effective and/or the lamb is dull or
inappetant, then you need to institute electrolyte therapy
as would be the case with scouring calves. Remove from
Figure 9: Lung abscesses caused by naval infection. (Source: John milk and provide ad-lib electrolytes (e.g. Revive). When
Smart). milk is reintroduced use the reduced volume / increased
concentration approach outlined above. In rare cases
Scabby Mouth like Salmonellosis, antibiotic treatment may be needed
If (and only if) scabby mouth is endemic on the farm, (but these must not be fed in the milk as a preventative).
vaccinate all lambs at the time of entry into the shed, as In older lambs that have been recently weaned, coccidiosis
lambs bunt up against the bottle damaging the skin around (due to a protozoal parasite causing a nasty diarrhoea,
the lips and nose which allows easy entry of the virus at an sometimes containing blood) can occasionally be an issue.
early age if it is present. Outbreaks are usually associated with a high stocking rate
and moist/muddy conditions. If grass is short, then due to a
combination of decreased resistance and lambs being forced
to graze low (thereby ingesting more coccidial oocysts) this
can exacerbate the disease. There is a treatment
(Baycox C®) which needs given promptly in an outbreak to
be really effective. Prevention consists of providing clean
fresh grazing (don’t wean lambs onto the same paddocks in
consecutive years) and a clean water source. Ensure that
the meal fed contains a coccidiostat.
Internal parasites (worms) are unlikely to be an issue until
lambs have been eating mainly or wholly pasture for at least
three weeks. Avoiding weaning lambs onto the same
paddocks in consecutive years (as with coccidiosis) will help
reduce the likelihood of premature or excessive exposure to
the causative agent, in this case L3 parasite larvae.

Figure 10: Scabby mouth. (Source: John Smart). Vaccinations

It is safest to assume there has been no colostrum intake
Pneumonia and thus no clostridial protection will be present at tailing, so
Not usually a common problem. If some cases occur the first give “Lamb Vaccine” at tailing. Lambs can then have a
thing to check is the flow rate of teats. A small lamb on a standard 5 in 1 vaccination programme and be vaccinated
teat with a large orifice can lead to inhalation pneumonia against Clostridial diseases (Pulpy Kidney etc.) with
which will show up as a history of “the lamb was drinking fine Ultravac® 5 in 1 at 6-10 weeks of age and again 4-6 weeks
but now only drinks a percentage of the bottle and comes on later.

Abomasal bloat dose it isn’t expensive). If it doesn’t seem to be effective
then you need to try one of the other methods.
This has been the biggest cause of death amongst hand
reared lambs, usually from about 3-4 weeks of age onwards.
Lambs become acutely bloated about 1-2 hours after feeding Rumenal bloat
(so this is the time to check on them). There is acute This occurs due to acidosis from over-feeding of
depression, a swollen tense abdomen, pain (colic) and death concentrates. This will not be seen with Moozlee or Sgt Dan
is rapid if lambs are not treated. It usually occurs after three but could occur if any attempt is made to substitute these
weeks of age while fed large amounts (>500 mL) of milk with straight grain.
replacer once daily, and is due to the sudden gorging and
uneven intake. The flooding of a large amount of milk into Watery mouth
the intestinal tract provides an ideal substrate for Sarcinia A bacterial infection caused by the bacteria E.coli which
bacteria (a soil borne bacterium lambs pick up from the replicate in the lamb’s intestines. Young lambs up to three
environment) to multiply, which results in huge amounts of days of age are more susceptible to this disease as they
gas being produced (bloat) and acidification of the intestinal have not yet developed sufficient acid in their stomach to kill
contents (rupture of the stomach & sometimes the abdominal the ingested bacteria before they reach the intestines. The
wall). most common symptom is excess salivation (Figure 10).

Figure 12: Excessive salivation that is characteristic of

watery mouth disease. (Source: John Smart).

Figure 11: Severe case of abomasal bloat (Source: John Smart). Acidifying (yoghurtising) milk or milk replacers
Treat with 3 mL of penicillin orally as soon as possible. If this Yoghurt contains Lactobaccillus species (good bacteria) that
isn’t going to work quickly enough (i.e. if the lamb is basically help prevent “bad” bacteria from multiplying in the gut. This
on its last gasp) you will need to deflate the stomach with a “yoghurtised” milk can be introduced from about day 5-7
needle. Put the lamb on its back and in the midline between (although it can be given to lambs from 2 days of age) with a
the end of the sternum (ribcage) and the navel plunge a 16 gradual transition from warm to cold feeding as follows:
gauge, 1-inch needle straight in, and hold it there applying
very slight downward pressure as the stomach deflates. Small numbers (e.g. 1-4 lambs):
Afterwards inject a dose of penicillin into the muscle in the
• Make up double the amount of milk replacer you need.
usual way (1 mL per 10 kg bodyweight). As this condition is
This should be done in a lidded bucket which is at least
an acute emergency you need to be well organised
twice that of the volume of the milk in it.
beforehand – have penicillin, a 16 gauge, 1-inch needle
handy and know beforehand exactly what to do! • Use water that is warmer than you would feed to the
lambs but not as hot as a fresh cup of tea. This gets the
To prevent abomasal bloat you will need to do one of the yoghurt growing fast without the need for a heating pad.
• Dump a large container of unsweetened acidophilus
• Put lambs back onto a twice-daily feeding regime until yoghurt into the bucket of warm milk replacer and whisk
weaning. well.
• Iron injection – there is good evidence that the injection of • Leave in the hot water cupboard for 6-12 hours,
iron helps prevent abomasal bloat by reducing the depending on how long it takes to thicken. The mix may
inclination of lambs to eat dirt to improve their iron intake, vary from bubbly thick-shake, to crusty cream cheese
thereby reducing the intake of the causative bacteria. sitting on top of clear liquid, to thick commercial yoghurt.
Administer an injection of Gleptosil® (1.5-2 mL) at 2-5 • When it’s time to feed the lambs, whisk it up, decant the
days of age. Repeat again (2 mL) about 3-4 weeks later. amount you need (dilute a little with cold water if
• Baking soda – added to the milk (at 10-15 g/L) is also necessary or cut the lambs teats open a bit if it’s too
often effective in preventing abomasal bloat. thick) and feed.
• Formulin – addition to the milk at a rate of 1 mL of 10% • If you like you can give the lambs a half yoghurt/half
formalin per litre of milk. ordinary milk replacer mix when you first introduce it but
• Acidification (yoghurtising) of milk or milk replacer has they normally go on to the yoghurt without any problems.
also been shown to be very effective. See below for • Make up an equal volume of milk replacer to that
details. removed, again quite warm and whisk into the existing
If an injection of Gleptosil® works then this is the simplest yoghurt mix and put back in the hot water cupboard ready
preventative strategy to adopt (and at around 30 cents per for the next feed.

Medium numbers (e.g. 5-20 lambs):
Lamb rearing – a farmer’s
• Put 3 litres of warm water in a bucket.
• Add 1 kg of calf milk powder and mix with an electric stick perspective
blender of at least 250 watts power. Kelly Liggett
• Add 200 mL of acidophilus yoghurt e.g. Ezy-Yo from the
supermarket. Mix, then cover with a lid or sheets of Kelly and her husband Alex have been rearing lambs for
newspaper. approximately 10 years. Their primary motivation for rearing
lambs is to improve animal welfare. Their flock of 2100 ewes
• Keep the mix warm for the next few hours. The easiest scanned 173% this year and are kept in the best possible
method is to place the bucket on a brewer’s mat (cost condition to maximise lamb survival. Rearing lambs has
$50 for a 25 watt solid heating mat). If the air provided an option for orphan lambs who are lost or born in a
temperature is too cold the milk will take a long time to storm and who can’t be mothered on to a ewe.
ferment. Another option is to put the bucket in an
insulated box e.g. chilly-bin with something like a hottie Orphan lambs are dropped off at the shearing shed, where
as a source of heat. they are assessed. Every lamb has their naval sprayed with
• The yoghurt should set within 8-12 hours and may have a iodine. Poorer condition lambs are placed on a heat pad,
soft crust on top with some liquid at the bottom or may given warm dextrose via injection and fed 60 mL of warm
resemble thick commercial yoghurt. colostrum (via tube if they are unable to drink). Healthy
lambs are bottle-fed 100-200 mL of warm colostrum and
• Top up with cold water to 8 litres, mix, and feed directly to placed in a warm pen with heat lamps above them. All lambs
lambs receive four feeds of colostrum and are fed four times a day
• Remove 200 mL of this liquid yoghurt for use as the while they are in the nursery pens and feeder training pens.
starter for the next batch.

Large numbers (e.g. >20 lambs):

• For the starter either buy 2 litres of acidophilus yoghurt,
or add 50 mL of acidophilus yoghurt to 2 litres of warm
calf milk replacer at 40ºC, and keep warm for 8-12 hours
to set.
• Put 30 litres of warm water (40ºC) in an 80 litre plastic
container. Add 10 kg of milk replacer and 2 litres of
• Mix until smooth. A powerful electric stick blender,
submersible pump or electric drill with a mixer attachment
is useful.
• Put a lid or sheets of newspaper on the container and
supply warmth until set (24 hours). A brewer’s mat can
be used under the container as the heat source. The
container could have an insulating blanket put around it.
Setting of the yoghurt also depends on the room
temperature. The set mixture may have a thick cheesy
crust and liquid at the bottom.
• Add water to give a total of 80 litres. Mix or sieve to
remove any lumps.
• Remove 2 litres of the liquid yoghurt to use as a starter
for the next batch.
The yoghurt will last up to 5 days in a cool place. Clean the
bucket/container between batches. The lamb feeders should
be kept in a cool place or in the shade. This can be used
under ad-lib or set feeding regimes (such as once or twice a
day) and does not add much extra expense.
Should you experience problems (especially repeated ones)
with your orphan lambs, please contact your local Figure 13: Nursery pen fitted with heat lamps to keep
veterinarian who will be able to assist you in identifying and newborn lambs warm. (Source: Kelly Liggett).
correcting any underlying issues that could be predisposing
factors to the problem. The commonest (and severest)
problem experienced by far for most people rearing lambs is
abomasal bloat and this is now quite preventable. Colostrum is either day 1 cow’s colostrum or sheep
colostrum which has been hand-milked from a ewe waiting to
be put in the mothering-on pens. After colostrum, the lambs
are fed SprayFo whey-based milk replacer. Muesli is
purchased from South Otago Grain.

Abomasal bloat isn’t a huge problem. Kelly checks the
lambs 30-60 minutes after they are fed so that any issues
can be identified before bloat progresses. Her care plan for
bloat is to release the pressure using a big needle in their
rumen and then to administer 5 mL of penicillin orally.
Kelly has found that watery mouth can also be an issue and
is harder to successfully treat. Her care plan for water mouth
includes electrolytes, isolation and spectra block given orally.

Figure 14: Kelly monitors the feeding to make sure each

lamb receives its allocation (Source: Kelly Liggett).

After three days the orphans leave their heated pen and go
into a training pen, which is a small, warm area that is free
from drafts and which has hay for bedding. Here they are
trained onto four-teat compartment feeders. This part can be
time-consuming, but once the lambs learn how to drink they
become much easier to feed. Kelly has found that initially
the lambs tend to back-off the feeder regularly, but usually
get the hang of it after about three feeds.
Once they are trained, the lambs are penned into groups of
8-12. Pens are constructed from gates found around the
farm (e.g. tailing gates or old wooden gates) and are fitted
with a milk feeder, a small hay feeder, a trough with clean
water and a muesli trough. Lambs spend nearly three weeks
in these pens – at the end of this time they are bigger and
drink more vigorously, making it harder to pour milk into the
feeder evenly without spilling it. They also need to be
monitored as some will bunt their neighbor off. This is Figure 15: Feeding larger groups of lambs requires two people
generally a two-person job and good one for the children to and is a great job for the kids. (Source: Kelly Liggett).
help with. They are fed 300 mL, three times a day.
At three weeks of age the lambs move into a small shed in a Other critical success factors that Kelly identified were:
small paddock where they are all grouped together. The
sleeping area is open with hay for bedding and they now • Maintaining clean feeding equipment.
have access to grass. Nuts are introduced with their muesli • Consistent feeding times.
– nuts are easier as they don’t spill or waste as much of • Regular cleaning of lamb pens – pens are sprayed twice
these. At this stage they are fed around 500 mL each twice weekly with Virkon, and more frequently if a problem is
a day. Lambs are fed in batches of 12 in a feeding pen and suspected. Bedding material in the nursery pens is
then lifted into a waiting pen. changed twice.
Once lambs reach 12 kg, they are shifted further out onto the Kelly’s goals with her lamb rearing system are to:
farm into a paddock of young grass (ryegrass, chicory,
plantain and clover mix). Another feeding and waiting pen is • Keep the mortality rate low in the nursery pens.
set up and they are fed around 600 mL once a day. There is • Mother on as many lambs as possible – some ewes have
also a large trough set up for nuts – it is important that there two lambs mothered on.
is enough room for every lamb to fit around the trough.
Round hay bales and placed in the paddock for shelter, but In terms of economics, last year Kelly spent $40 per lamb on
there is no shed. food. Each lamb received 7 kg of milk powder and half a bag
of nuts/muesli.
Lambs are weaned off milk replacer once they reach 15 kg.
They have access to nuts and hay for a few more weeks
(Figure 2).

the health, safety, animal care and productivity of everyone
State of NZ shearing industry in the industry. Videos star respected industry shearers and
Jason Davis, Davis Shearing Contractors provide education around physical fitness, stress
management, nutrition, animal welfare and handling, and
injury prevention. The videos are also a great resource for
Key issues for the NZ shearing industry farmers who do shearing themselves as while a lot of
farmers can shear, they might not have the right techniques
New Zealand has been losing a lot of staff to Australia where and this can result in injury. Those who successfully
the pay rates for shearers and woolhandlers are better. Four complete the programme receive a certificate. Tahi Ngatahi
years ago the NZ Shearing Contractors Association voted (in is expected to be launched at the Canterbury A&P show this
the farmer’s favour) not to increase pay rates because of the year.
low prices for wool. However, this ended up being to the
detriment of contractors who were unable to compete with There is also an app for a digital woolshed “Warrant of
the pay rates being offered in Australia. This has made it Fitness” which farmers and contractors can use to check if
extremely difficult for shearing contractors to source enough the building is compliant. If farmers use this resource, it can
staff for their busy periods. Jason reported that last year was provide evidence that compliance obligations are being met.
the hardest year he has ever experienced in terms of trying
to find staff for their busy main shear – staff numbers were
down 10-15%. The association this year recommended Alcohol
wage increases of 25% for both shearers and woolhandlers Contractors are also trying to get rid of issues with
to try and help address the staffing issue. alcoholism within the industry. Traditionally farmers supply
Recruiting young staff has been another key issue for the NZ the shearing gang with beer once they finish a shed, but
shearing industry. There is currently no nationwide provider contractors are now just encouraging growers just to
of shearing training since Te Ako Wool lost their funding. personally thank their staff.
This was a real loss to the industry as Te Ako Wool had
some great ideas to engage young people. Getting young
people into shearing requires an initial investment in training How can farmers help?
and equipment – Jason has found that prospective young Shed capacity is an important consideration for contractors.
shearers struggle to find the money and the cost is often It is difficult to make money from a two-stand shed, so
borne by the contractor. Competition for staff is so strong turning this into a three-stand shed will help. Converting a
that contractors face the risk that new shearers will be three-stand shed into a four-stand shed will help with
poached once they are trained. There are some avenues throughput and turning a five-stand shed into a six-stand
being explored to provide shearing training in future, but it shed will create efficiencies with woolhandling staff. Even
will take a couple of years to get this up and running. numbers of stands are preferable from a throughput and
staffing perspective.
Health and safety management Farmers should also make sure that they follow the best
practice guidelines (refer to the ‘Useful Links’ section below)
NZ Shearing Contractors Association, Federated Farmers, around woolshed setup, sheep preparation and fasting sheep
ACC and WorkSafe NZ have combined to develop Tahi before shearing. If sheep are well emptied and have been
Ngatahi – a web-based health and safety module. The crutched then it will be easier to get shearing staff. If staff
module contains video clips, tips and forms to help ensure are well looked after then they will come back year after year.

Enhancing the value of strong Innovations
wool Glacial XTTM
Glacial XT is a unique scouring process that delivers a
Rosstan Mazey, Wools of New Zealand
significantly cleaner, more consistent and level base-fibre.
The process enhances the quality attributes of wool,
Wools of New Zealand overview particularly the whiteness and brightness, without
compromising the integrity of the fibre itself.
Wools of New Zealand is a 100% New Zealand grower-
This technology is capable for transforming poor or average
owned supply, sales and marketing company with 720
coloured greasy wool include ‘good coloured’ scoured wool;
grower shareholders representing approximately 14.5 million
and has the potential to take ‘good coloured’ greasy wool into
kilograms of annual strong wool production. Key areas of
‘super-white’ scoured wool. This technology reduces batch
focus include:
variability and provides greater consistency for dyers,
• Innovation and technology that is underpinned by spinners and weavers. Wool treated using the GlacialXT™
sustainable, ethical supply, traceability and a focus on process is more efficient to dye, (saving energy, water, dye
wool quality through the value chain. and time) and is now able to be used to produce printed
• Collaborative activities to promote long-term sustainability carpets.
of the sector. Traditional sales models do not derive full Wools of NZ has global exclusive rights to this scour process
value back to growers – Wools of New Zealand is and it is now commercially underway with sales programmes
focused on building a sustainable future for strong wool. to lead partners.
• Building partnerships globally with manufacturers,
brands, retailers and ultimately consumers, to carve out a
value proposition. Initiatives to increase and create Oritain
demand for NZ strong wool include utilising supply Traceability is important for integrity and as such Wools of
credentials and the Wools of NZ brand; new innovations New Zealand has been working with Oritain to provide proof
and technologies; and finding new customers and of origin information. Finished products can be tested and
markets. traced back to the country of origin and region of production
to provide confidence to consumers. A video of this process
is available in the ‘Useful Links’ section below.
Global trends
There is real concern worldwide with synthetic microfibres
and their impact on the environment and food chain. This is
influencing the decisions that people are making – Forward contracts
consumers and retailers are now wanting to know more Wools of NZ has forward contracts available to growers
about the origin of product, and the way the fibre has been which are designed to reduce risk and price volatility.
grown and taken to market. Wools of New Zealand has been Forward contracts have been ahead of the spot market for
proactively investing in science and market-led certifications the last four years (Figure 17).
related to traceability, integrity and animal welfare which are
enabling commercial opportunities. Some examples include:
• EU Ecolabel – this certification helps European
customers identify products with a reduced environmental
impact, and covers the supply chain from production on
farm, through the various stages of processing to the
finished product.
• Responsible Wool Standard – addresses the welfare of
sheep and the land they graze on. Wools of New
Zealand has embraced this standard and this has
enabled new opportunities in apparel.
The Wools of New Zealand brand identifies products that are
rich in wool from NZ farms. The Laneve brand identifies
products that are 100% natural fibres, with all of the wool
being traceable through transparent supply chains back to Figure 17: Wools of NZ contract vs lambs wool spot price indicator
the farmers who grow it. 2012-2017 (Source: Wools of NZ).

Natural Fibre Exchange (NFX)

Wools of New Zealand led the development this online
trading platform which provides direct access to buyers for
marketable wool types. It operates in a similar way to the
Global Dairy Trade (GDT) platform and was launched in May
this year. The NFX is owned by Wools of New Zealand and
the Alliance Group, who have teamed up with CRA
International are world experts in online trading platforms and
Figure 16: The Wools of New Zealand and Laneve brands. who manage the NFX.

The NFX was developed as a platform to connect buyers This opportunity is significant for New Zealand wool growers,
with sellers, providing transparent, market-based reference with the relationship and scale of DuPont being leveraged to
prices and an efficient and convenient selling mechanism for promote wool globally. The new fibre developed with DuPont
wool. Events are held fortnightly and have seen strong has the potential to use significant volumes of strong
support from sellers and buyers. crossbred wool and could take a significant portion of the
strong wool clip.

New opportunity with DuPont

DuPont is a US-based $40 billion conglomerate involved in
agriculture, motor vehicles, building, electronics, energy, food
and beverages, healthcare, marine, mining, packaging,
printing, plastics, safety and chemicals. DuPont was
established in 1802 and was originally involved in wool
growing and processing. In 1903 it began developing
cellulose fibre and then moved on to the production of
advanced synthetic materials (e.g. Nylon). DuPont is now
one of the world’s largest producers of synthetic fabrics, with
its fibre materials range including Nomex®, Kevlar®, Lycra®,
Tyvek® and Sorona®.
Dupont has been collaborating with Wools of New Zealand to
develop a new eco-friendly, wool-blend home textile yarn.
The fibre is designed to bring together the best of both the
natural and bio-based synthetic fibres, to produce a superior
fibre with optimized properties and a significantly reduced
environmental footprint. Wool is being combined with
Dupont’s Sorona® fibre in various blends ranging from 20:80
wool to Sorona® right up to 80:20 wool to Sorona®.
Development is in the final stages and is expected to be
completed later this year. The fibre is expected to be used at
scale, aiming at the mid to upper price bracket. Potential
applications include textile floor coverings, bedding and
apparel fill.

Figure 18: ‘Fabulous’ Wools of New Zealand branded carpet by UK company Crucial Trading (Source: Wools of New Zealand).

Useful links
RMPP podcast – Saving and rearing newborn lambs, with Lynley Wyeth
B+LNZ video – Orphan lamb rearing
B+LNZ video – Triplet management
B+LNZ video – Intensive triplet management (indoor)
B+LNZ factsheet – Artificial lamb rearing – managing abomasal bloat
Safe Sheep Shearing – Good Practice Guidelines
B+LNZ factsheet – Shelter
Oritain traceability video
Natural Fibre Exchange website
Wools of New Zealand website
Wools of New Zealand grower website

Nicola Chisholm Olivia Ross

AgFirst Otago Extension Manager,
027 610 2221 Southern South Island 027 801 7868