NZ Lifestyle Block - - Front Page - Matt and Lyn­ley Wyeth.

Lyn­ley and Matt Wyeth are award­win­ning pro­fes­sional sheep farm­ers on 1000ha (2500 acres) near Master­ton, run­ning 6850 high­lander ewes, 2500 hoggets, 220 breed­ing cows and re­place­ment heifers, and more than 300 other cat­tle.

Dur­ing a very bad win­ter a few years ago, they lost 1000 lambs in one night. Their re­sponse was to im­ple­ment a ground-break­ing in­door lamb-rais­ing pro­gramme, mostly to help triplet lambs which are at great­est risk. It dras­ti­cally in­creased lamb sur­vival rates, but also pro­duc­tion and prof­itabil­ity, with the farm gain­ing hun­dreds of live­stock that oth­er­wise might have been lost.

1 Their suc­cess starts many weeks be­fore lamb­ing be­gins

All ewes are scanned and triplet­bear­ers are iden­ti­fied, then trained to ac­cept a grain con­cen­trate (as many haven’t eaten grain be­fore). Four weeks be­fore lamb­ing, the feed level is in­cre­men­tally in­creased, then one week be­fore birth the ewes are placed in an old wool shed. They give birth in their own pen and get about 8 hours to bond with their lambs, then are moved to a larger pen with sev­eral other moth­ers and lambs. In to­tal they stay in the shed for about five days.

2 They add in ex­tras to the feed

The Wyeths used high cal­cium lucerne balage as the main sup­ple­ment feed in the first year, but worked with an an­i­mal nu­tri­tion­ist to blend a spe­cial for­mula of lucerne with ex­tra mag­ne­sium and pro­tein for the fol­low­ing year. This helps pre­vent some of the se­ri­ous and po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing meta­bolic is­sues that a triplet-bear­ing ewe is in dan­ger of de­vel­op­ing such as milk fever and preg­nancy tox­aemia (ke­to­sis/sleepy sick­ness). Ewes with bel­lies full of lambs phys­i­cally can’t eat enough feed to main­tain con­di­tion and grow their lambs. The lambs get pref­er­ence, which can make the ewe sick.

3 They fol­low strict rules on how to treat new­born lambs

Weak or hy­pother­mic lambs are put straight into a ‘hot box’, an in­su­lated crate warmed by heat lamps. Any lamb show­ing signs of ill­ness goes into a sim­i­lar box but is quar­an­tined. Lyn­ley has a spe­cial chart which shows staff what to do if she’s not on site.

4 Hand-raised lambs are fed on cow colostrum

For the first 4-5 days the lambs are fed fresh cows’ colostrum, sourced from neigh­bour­ing dairy farms. From then un­til five weeks of age they are fed three times a day on a 50-50 mix of cows’ colostrum

and whey-based Sprayfo Primo Lamb milk re­placer, and have ac­cess to a pel­let sup­ple­ment to help the ru­men de­velop. By Day 10 most lambs are eat­ing pel­lets, and are al­lowed ac­cess to graz­ing pad­docks. They are weaned at 9kg, and Lyn­ley re­ports their spring 2014 lambs were hit­ting their 50-day weight tar­get of 18kg, and the 100day tar­get of 33kg. In 2013, Lyn­ley and her team hand-raised 220 lambs; in 2014 it went up to 350, and most of them sur­vived.

5 It’s labour-in­ten­sive but it’s prof­itable

Dur­ing lamb­ing sea­son Lyn­ley per­son­ally spends around 70 hours a week on site in the shed, but she says it’s ab­so­lutely worth it: there’s the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing most lambs sur­vive, that oth­er­wise might have died, but it’s also worth it eco­nom­i­cally, with the cost of rais­ing each lamb $38-$48, trans­lat­ing into a healthy meat an­i­mal at 12 months worth $100-$130.


$130 AT 1-YEAR-OLD.

By day 10 most lambs are eat­ing pel­lets, and get ac­cess to pad­docks for grass and so they

can sleep in the sun­shine.

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