Our lambs are now between 11 and 13 weeks old and it’s time to wean them. The mamas have done a fantastic job of caring for their babies and it’s time for their bodies to stop putting so much energy into making milk and reroute that energy into getting back into good shape before we breed again in 3 months.
Once the babies are 8 weeks old their rumen (the part of their stomach that does all the work of digesting the grass) is fully developed and able to support them if they are weaned at that time. Once they begin to nibble on grasses, their stomachs begin to learn to process forage as well as milk, but they’re simply not ready to survive on forage alone. Mamas milk is required for life in the earliest weeks. As the digestive system begins to mature and adjust to the increasing amounts of grasses that the lambs eat, they begin to derive benefit from both the milk and the grass. We like to leave our lambs with their mamas for as long as we can.
We are weaning at this stage this year because the majority of our lambs are ewes and most of the mamas had triplets with two ewes and one ram. If we left the babies with the mamas, they would naturally wean the babies on their own. We are just stepping in this time to make sure that those mamas can get the most “bounce back” time before breeding again. And the other reason we’re weaning now is that once the lambs are 4 months old, the boys are *capable* of breeding the ewes. It’s not common, but it is possible. In years when we have more boys than girls we will wean just before 4 months of age and leave the girls in with their mamas to be weaned naturally. This year we opted to wean all the lambs together and put the girls back in with their mamas once their milk is dried up, leaving the boys to move together as one group and the ewes (mamas and lambs) to move together as a group.
Once everyone is separated and settled in, things quiet down and are peaceful once again.