One of the most significant decisions a lamb raiser can make is selecting which milk replacer is best for their lambs. A quality lamb milk replacer provides the necessary nutrients to address early health problems and has the power to boost flock performance.
With so much at stake, it’s important to research your options fully.
Ask yourself these five questions before purchasing a lamb milk replacer
Question #1: Is it truly a lamb milk replacer?
Lambs, fawns, piglets, oh my! Some milk replacers are marketed to many different species. While multi-species products are acceptable when species-specific milk replacers aren’t available, they can’t accommodate the specific nutritional needs of each species.
Look for a milk replacer designed specifically for lambs. Lamb milk replacers will mimic the composition of ewe’s milk to provide the best nutrition possible. Lambs require a minimum of 25 percent protein and 30 percent fat.
Looking for an easy way to know if it’s made just for lambs? The packaging can provide some insights. Packaging with photos of a variety of animals is likely a multi-species product and isn’t designed to meet lambs’ specific nutritional needs.
Question #2: Does the lamb milk replacer contain quality ingredients?
Lamb milk replacer ingredients come in two types: human edible grade and milk replacer grade. Human edible grade ingredients have strict quality standards (the same as products manufactured for human use).
Milk replacer grade ingredients are lower quality and may have high bacteria counts. They also have more nutritional variability.
High bacteria counts in milk replacer ingredients could compromise lamb immune systems and nutrient variability can reduce growth and impact health as well. Ask for a lamb milk replacer that contains human edible grade ingredients so you can be sure you’re feeding lambs high-quality, consistent nutrition.
Question #3: How does the lamb milk replacer mix?
Poor quality ingredients can cause milk replacer to separate during the mixing process. This separation can be harmful to lambs since they aren’t receiving consistent nutrients at each feeding, especially for lambs fed free-choice. Lambs drinking first on a free-choice system will consume different nutrients than those drinking later in the day.
Some companies will conduct quartile testing after the milk replacer is mixed to confirm consistent nutrition. Mixed milk replacer sits for 30 minutes before taking samples from the top, middle and bottom quarters of the mix. Samples are tested for protein and fat to ensure balanced nutrition throughout. Quartile testing gives you confidence that, drop for drop, the lamb milk replacer is the same. Ask for milk replacer that does this testing to ensure consistent mixing.
Question #4 What support is behind the lamb milk replacer?
It’s not just what’s in the bag that matters, but the support behind it. When choosing a lamb milk replacer, look for the three R’s – reputation, research and resources.
- Reputation: Identify the manufacturer. Buying lamb milk replacer from a reputable manufacturer means they have the research and resources to back up their product.
- Research: Make sure the manufacturer doesn’t just talk the talk. Can they back up their performance claims? Ask to see the research. Reputable companies will invest in lamb-specific research, giving you confidence that the milk replacer is safe for your flock and will deliver results.
- Resources: Understand the support available from a milk replacer manufacturer. Do they have local staff members to help if challenges arise? Quick access to lamb experts is a valuable resource, if and when you need it.
Question #5: What doesn’t the lamb milk replacer label tell you?
The ingredients listed on the label don’t tell the whole story. Many high-quality lamb milk replacers have additional technologies that aren’t easy to see or find on the label. Ask about technologies to support immunity and performance.
Inquire if the milk replacer has a preservative system. A preservative system is especially important if you feed free-choice to assure the milk replacer stays fresh throughout the day.
When comparing products side by side, don’t let the amount of nutrients listed on the label mislead you. For example, even if product X has a higher level of vitamin A than product Y, it doesn’t mean it’s a better product. It may look better on the label, but certain nutrients provided in excess can be toxic.
Copper is one ingredient which, provided in excess, can cause copper toxicity. However, small amounts of copper are necessary for normal growth. Milk ingredients are naturally extremely low in copper, unlike feed ingredients. Look for a milk replacer with 8-11 parts per million of copper (usually from copper sulfate) to support lamb growth.
Let us do the research for you. LAND O LAKES® Ultra Fresh® Optimum Lamb Milk Replacer
checks all these boxes and more.