£30 Margin Per Volac Machine Reared Lamb
106 lambs reared on a Volac automatic feeder left an average gross margin of £30.51 in 2016 out of an average sale price of £80.51.
Impressive figures from the Kells, Co Antrim upland farm in Northern Ireland of Hilary and Roger Bell where a Volac Eco Feeder, bought three years ago, is a key management tool.
Speaking as their 550 ewes started lambing Roger noted that even after allowing another £3 per lamb for payback of the feeder over 10 years each lamb left a healthy £27.51 margin over milk powder, meal, straw, vitamins and minerals.
Farming 200 acres 650 to 850 feet above sea level Roger and Hilary lamb 550 ewes over four weeks from mid March in an airy general purpose shed used for Christmas turkey rearing. There is also a small spring calving suckler herd and Roger has a farm contracting business.
The sheep enterprise is based on bought in mule ewes put to Texel tups to produce flock replacements. Resulting crossbred ewe lambs are run with a Charollais ram and then as adult ewes mated with Suffolk sires.
Though the Automatic Eco Feeder has produced extra lamb income it is the overall impact of the machine on life in the lambing shed that most impresses the Bell family.
As Roger explained, one lamb is always removed from triplets to a ewe with a single, if available, or to be machine reared as this saves time spend ‘footering’ if all are left with their mother.
“That means the ewe and remaining two lambs get a head start in moving outside as early as the next day,” explained Roger Bell. “We can have 30 to 40 sheep lambing inside in 24 hours so freeing up pens is critical.”
Typically ewes with triplets lamb first when few mothers with singles are available for adoption. This spring of the first 33 ewes to lamb 30 had triplets and only 3 were singles able to take a triplet.
Which triplet is selected for adoption or the machine varies, but ram lambs are preferred as females reared with mum make better mothers if being kept as replacements.
Lambs moving to the machine are first tubed with colostrum from a ewe and then started on Volac Volostrum promptly so leaving their mother’s own colostrum for the siblings. Hilary uses Volostrum as it has 76% protein, twice the level on the label of some other products.
“Volostrum is as good as ewe colostrum and gives lambs a real kick start in life. Then they are quickly started on the Eco Feeder, which has eight feeding stations.
“The Eco Feeder is easy to use, automatically mixes milk powder and water at the correct temperature and consistency. Indeed it mixes in small fresh batches and has a semi automatic cleaning function using hotter water.”
Roger adding that, “Aside from speeding the flow of sheep and lambs back to the field and rearing lambs at a profit the Eco Feeder is highly reliable with great back up from local Volac technicians.
“We weight lambs to monitor performance from birth and record meticulously so know that machine reared lambs match or even out perform those left with mum. Problems that arise in bottle reared lambs such as bloat and stomach upsets are not seen. Simply because our lambs drink a little fresh milk, often, from the machine, just as they would naturally from ewes.”
Roger and Hilary use Volac Lamlac milk powder for the same reason as they use Volostrum. It has the ingredients lambs need to thrive with 24% percent protein and is formulated using ultrafiltrated milk protein.
Unlike many the Bells do not wean by age, but primarily by performance so that most are off milk after four weeks, which helps control costs.
The main run of lambs has a birth weight around 5kg and wean in the 14 to 15kg weight range after only a month on milk powder. Thanks to the Eco Feeder lambs tend not to suffer set backs and are offered meal after two weeks.
The bulk of lambs are sold to the factory aside from any ewe lambs kept for breeding either at home or sold in the yard.
Commenting on their experience with an Eco Feeder Roger said it is now central to their whole lambing system. “Using modern technology, such as the Eco Feeder saves us time, maximises lamb performance and margins.”