Know before you buy: Lamb milk replacer

Three questions to ask before choosing a milk replacer for your lambs

New products are always popping up on grocery store shelves. It can be fun to review new product labels, but overwhelming at the same time. By knowing what you’re looking at when you review a label, it can help you make healthy choices to ensure you select proper nutrition to fuel you and your family. The same holds true for selecting a milk replacer for your lambs.

“Before your new lambs are born, it is important to prepare by having milk replacer on hand to supplement or replace ewe milk,” says Julian (Skip) Olson, DVM, technical services manager for Milk Products. “Take time to understand what to look for prior to choosing a milk replacer.”

Ask yourself the following three questions before selecting a milk replacer.

1. How do I start my search?

When you begin to look for a milk replacer, selecting one formulated specifically for the species you are feeding is recommended. Multi-species milk replacers are available, but may not meet the nutritional needs of your lambs.

“Ewe’s milk has a different nutritional makeup than doe’s milk for example,” says Olson. “That’s why it’s important to select a specie-specific milk replacer, formulated to be like their mother’s milk. A milk replacer specially formulated for lambs will help ensure they receive the nutrition they need to grow, which is different than the needs of goat kids.”

Throughout your search, you will find that some milk replacers are available in multiple size packages. Having the option to choose a size that best fits your needs will help keep milk replacer fresh. And, you won’t have to keep more on hand than you need.

Consider how many new lambs you will be welcoming before you stock up on milk replacer for the season. Review the label feeding directions to estimate how much you will need.

2. What else should I look for on the label?

Milk replacer packaging contains a lot of useful information and knowing what to review on the label can help you decide which one is the best fit.

Guaranteed analysis

“Review the guaranteed analysis, which provides a breakdown of the replacer’s nutrients. Crude protein will be listed first and crude fat second,” says Olson

Crude protein and crude fat are used to describe the milk replacer’s formulation. A 23:30 lamb milk replacer for example, contains 23 percent crude protein and 30 percent crude fat.

“Protein and fat are the most important nutrients to evaluate – both are important for growth and development of your lambs,” says Olson.

Crude fiber is important to consider because the percentage typically indicates the protein source.

“For example, crude fiber above 0.15 percent indicates there may be a plant protein source in addition to the milk-derived proteins,” says Olson. “Check the ingredient list to make sure the protein source is what you want, such as a milk-derived replacer.”

Ingredient list

A milk replacer ingredient list includes all ingredients it contains, similar to a product you’d purchase from the grocery store.

“The primary ingredients are protein and fat sources,” says Olson. “Common sources of protein in all-milk milk replacers include whey products and derivatives, skim milk, casein and sodium or calcium caseniate. Typical fat sources include whole milk fat, lard, choice white grease and soy, palm or coconut oil. Milk fat, lard and lesser amounts of palm or coconut oil are the best fat sources.”

The list will also include vitamin and mineral supplements, preservatives and flavors. Look for replacers with trace minerals and B-complex vitamins as they are important for lamb growth. Probiotics and yeast extracts are often included in milk replacers to help support the digestive system.

3. Is it easy for me to feed?

Again, when reviewing milk replacer packaging, read through the feeding instructions.

“Feeding instructions should be easy to understand,” says Olson. “Step-by-step instructions outlining feeding through the weaning phase will make it easy for you to follow as your lambs grow.”

No matter your goals, look for a milk replacer that supports health, growth and performance. Knowing what to look for in a milk replacer and how to feed it, will help you feel confident as you prepare for new lambs.

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