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Imprint Feeding – train lambs while on mum

Whether or not you intend to feed grain to lambs after weaning or at some stage later in life, training them whilst they are on their mums can save a lot of time later on.

If sheep are not accustomed to grain feeding, it can also take a while to get them to recognise and eat grain. Sheep need to learn to graze, browse or eat supplements. They usually learn this as lambs and are strongly influenced by the grazing behaviour of the mother and other sheep in the flock. Sheep can be fearful of new or novel feeds, new ways of feeding and/or feeding in new situations where they need to interact closely with many other sheep (e.g. trail feeding, containment feeding and feedlots).

Training sheep to feed

Training sheep to feed on supplements is best done yearly when they are still lambs following their mothers. It is a valuable management practice to do before weaning, even if supplementary feeding is not expected to be needed, as they will remember for some years into the future when feeding may be required. As little as 3–4 feeds of 100 g/ewe will allow the ewe to teach the lamb to seek and eat the supplement. Lambs may need to be mustered onto the trail a few times to ensure they are all recognising the feed. If practical, it is worth feeding a variety of supplements that are normally used in your feeding programs as sheep remember different types of supplementary feeds later in life. If this is not practical, training them to a supplement is still very valuable, and if a different grain type or ration is used later, they will adapt to this more quickly than if they had not been trained.

For more information on feeding sheep and training onto grain, read chapter 4 of the sheep drought feeding book below