Growth of early weaned lambs on a plantain-clover mix compared with lambs suckling their dam on a plantain-clover mix or a grass based sward

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Plantain-clover mixes have high metabolisable energy content and have been shown to support greater liveweight gains in lambs both pre- and post-weaning when compared with grass. The aim of this experiment was to determine if a plantain-clover mix could be used as a means to wean lambs earlier. Twin-bearing ewes (n=67) with both lambs at a minimum live weight of 16 kg each were allocated to one of three treatments; 1) ewe and lambs together on grass, 2) ewes and lambs together on plantain- clover mix, 3) lambs weaned at approximately 8 weeks of age onto a plantain-clover mix and ewes on grass. Lambs that were weaned early were lighter (P<0.05) at approximately 14 weeks of age than those which remained with their dam on either a plantain-clover mix or grass (32.3±0.43 vs 34.7±0.44 vs 33.7±0.45 kg, respectively). However, ewes which had their lambs weaned early were heavier (P<0.05; 79.7±1.73 vs 75.5±1.68 vs 75.9±1.64 kg, respectively) and in better body condition score (P<0.05; 3.1±0.05 vs 2.9±0.05 vs 2.9±0.05, respectively) than those which remained with their lambs on either a plantain-clover mix or grass. This suggests early weaning improved ewe condition but did not improve lamb performance
early weaning, lambs, herb, plantain, clover
Proceeding of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, 2016, 76 pp. 65 - 68 (4)