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Guidelines for Finishing Store Lambs on All-Concentrate Diets

Ireland’s strength in sheep production is its ability to produce meat from an almost entirely grass-based diet. This gives a competitive advantage over many EU competitors. Maximizing production from grazed grass is important but at times store lambs are finished on concentrate and roughage diets.

The Teagasc team of Michael Diskin, Noel Claffey, Frank Campion and Michael Gottstein have put together an excellent guide on finishing store lambs on all-concentrate diets.

Main messages when finishing lambs on concentrate diets

  • It will be necessary to train lambs to eat concentrates 2-3 weeks prior to housing – outdoor with creep feeders/trough or indoors with access to roughage.
  • Never introduce lambs to concentrate feed when they are fasted
  • If finishing lambs on an all concentrate diet, ensure diet is formulated for this purpose, initially offer 300 g/lamb/day and increase by 200 g/lamb/day every 3 days until full feeding, and continue to offer a small quality of long roughage (hay, silage, or straw). Ensure that lambs have water at all times.
  • Each lamb should be allocated at least 0.8m² of floor space.
  • Ensure that the sheep house is well ventilated and adequately bedded with straw in bedded sheds.
  • Ensure that there is adequate trough space for lambs –especially during the time that they are being built up to ad-lib concentrates. (need 30cm per lamb of trough space)
  • If lambs are being fed indoors ensure that a clean fresh supply of water is available at all times
  • Carefully examine declared ingredients list to assess ration quality
  • Avoid too much starch or finely ground ingredients.
  • Coarse or slightly cracked ingredients are more slowly digested and, therefore, create a safer feed. However, the downside is that coarse feeds tend to attract birds and lambs tend to sort and leave behind unpalatable ingredients (rapeseed, distillers etc.)
  • Mineral and vitamin inclusion essential for longer feeding periods. Ensure that the mineral and vitamin mix included in the ration is specific for intensive finishing of lambs
  • If finishing males lambs include ammonium chloride for long keep lambs to prevent urinary calculi. Inclusion rate is 0.5% or 5 kg per tonne.
  • There should be no need for additional mineral and vitamin supplementation where properly balanced concentrates are being fed.
  • If lambs are being fed indoors ensure that concentrate feed is available at all times.
  • Purchased lambs should, on arrival on the farm, be given a “quarantine” dose for gastrointestinal worms and liver fluke, foot bathed and housed for 48 hours. 
  • Plunge dip or inject with macrocyclic lactone group product to control sheep scab.
  • Long-stay (> 6weeks) lambs may benefit from vaccination against clostridial diseases and pasturella pneumonia.
  • Canine tapeworm infection can be eliminated with regular (monthly) worming of dogs  using praziquantel.  
  • Prompt removal and or correct storage of sheep carcasses to avoid scavenging by dogs and foxes. Keep dogs away from sheep feed.

Access the entire document Guidelines for Finishing Store Lambs on All-Concentrate Diets (PDF)