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The importance of colostrum

Colostrum is essential for young lambs to provide immunity to a wide range of bugs. A new-born should receive good quality colostrum from its mother, if not available good quality cow’s colostrum (Brix>22) or Jumpstart, within 6-12 hours of birth.

It is recommended to feed 15% of the animal’s body weight in colostrum for at least 2 days.  In nature, a mix of colostrum and milk feeding would naturally be continued until 4 days after birth. 

This “transition milk” contains lower levels of immunoglobulins but additional nutrients, growth factors and bioactives that continue to support the development of the digestive tract and to support growth and health.

After ensuring they have received colostrum (day 1-2), “transition milk” (day 3-4), a milk replacer should be introduced.

Milk replacers

Always follow feeding instructions. 

A lamb will continue to drink as much as possible, but the most natural way they feed is little and often.  

Lambs have small stomachs so be cautious when feeding large volumes of milk replacer as this can cause discomfort and bloat. We recommend 4-6 feeds per day depending on age and weight if feeding with bottles or cafeterias.


Weaning is the transition of the lamb diet from liquid (e.g. milk replacer) to solid feed.

Lambs should be eating solid feed for a minimum of 21 days, showing rumination behavior (i.e. chewing their cud), and be drinking water freely at the time of weaning. As a general guide, lambs should be at least 40 days old and weigh at least 15kg before weaning.

Milk replacer should be gradually removed to give the animal time to adjust to the new feeding regime.

The weaning strategy for lambs depends on the feeding system in use. If feeding on ad-lib by auto-feeder, this is generally done by abrupt weaning at 4-5 weeks provided lambs and are a minimum 13kg, are in good health and body condition, and are eating solid feed and ruminating. When on a restricted feeding system (i.e. bottle-fed) and they have reached about 12kg, reduce feeds from 3 x daily (3 x 350mL) to 2 x 350mL per day for a week (not before week 3), then 1 x 350mL a day for a week and then wean.

Nutritional Scours

Nutritional scours are usually a result of poor-quality milk/milk replacer, poor mixing of milk replacer or over-feeding. High energy diets and pasture can also result in nutritional scours in older lambs.

  • Maintain clean and hygienic conditions within the lambing area, the rearing shed and all personnel working with the animals.
  • Ensure footwear is clean and only use gumboots dedicated to the facility.
  • Walk through the foot bath and refresh this with a sanitiser daily.
  • Remove or cover clothing that has been in contact with other livestock since it was last laundered and use dedicated overalls that are kept within the facility.
  • Ensure hands are clean and gloves are always worn when handling the animals.
  • Sterilise all equipment regularly.
  • Avoid overcrowding of pens.
  • Scours can cause lambs to lose a large amount of fluids each day. It is important to ensure these animals are well hydrated.
  • Remove any lambs suffering from scours from the pen and place in isolation (clean, warm and dry).
  • Feeding a good quality oral electrolyte (such as Novolyte), at therapeutic levels during the diarrhoea and recovery period, is the most efficient way to ensure optimum health.
  • Oral electrolytes are lower in energy than milk, so milk feeding should be continued during the scouring period.
  • Allow at least 2 hours between feeding milk and electrolytes as the electrolytes can interfere with milk curding in the stomach.
  • If the lamb has recovered it can leave isolation and return to a self-feeding group.
  • If the lamb has not recovered at day four, seek veterinary advice.

Infectious Scours

Infectious scours (bloody, foul-smelling) is almost certainly something serious and will require vet assistance and/or laboratory testing for an accurate diagnosis. If this is the case, we would recommend contacting your local vet as soon as possible.