Multimedia: Lamb survival trials

14 May 2015

Watch video footage of two demonstration farm trials in the Wairarapa, aimed at helping lambs survive and thrive.

Orphan lamb rearing and triplet management are two of three Beef + Lamb New Zealand demonstration farm trials being conducted on Matt and Lynley Wyeth's property, Spring Valley, from 2013-2015. It is a 1,000 hectare farm (800ha effective) 15km west of Masterton, tucked under the Tararuas.

A particularly harsh snow storm, during which 1000 lambs were lost in one night, left the Wyeths keen to do more to reduce deaths at lambing. The resulting orphan lamb shed took in 200 lambs during the first year, rising to 350 in the second.

The lambs are all over 2kg and checked for abnormalities which might prevent normal growth and development. Their goal is less than 30 per cent mortality within the first 24 hours and below five per cent within five days.

The orphan shed system is labour intensive but reaps ethical and financial rewards, saving a substantial number of lambs who would almost certainly have died outdoors.

Triplet-bearing ewes are a consequence of a high lambing percentage operation. This trial looks at how to maximise triplet survival and increase docking rates, by moving triplet ewes indoors about five days prior to lambing.

The ewes and lambs are inside for an average of four to five days, the goal being to turn out more than 280 per cent and dock at least 270. The average weaning weight of a triplet lamb is 21kg.

The highest costs in this system are labour and feed. In 2014, labour costs came in under budget at around $15,000, with total feed costs below $10,000.

Read more about these projects: Focusing on lamb survival

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