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With Diane Bishop
Saving orphans a growing business
Eat up: Dacre farmer Ross Cronin helps his lambs onto the Lely Calm lamb feeder.
Feeding 200 orphan lambs is no problem for Dacre farmer Ross Cronin. Diane Bishop reports.
Loving it: The lambs only take a few
days to get used to the feeder.
Well reared: The lambs have access to
fresh grass, water and sunshine.
Ross Cronin is not the sort of
farmer to drive past an orphaned
He scoops them up and takes them
home, where they are quickly
taught how to drink from his
automatic lamb feeder.
The Dacre farmer is feeding about
200 lambs and his hungry hordes
are going through three 20kg bags
of Anlamb milk powder each day.
Ross has always reared a few
orphan lambs but last season he
decided to get serious about it and
bought a Lely Calm for $11,000.
The feeder mixes and dispenses
milk powder to his lambs around
''I thought, there's got to be an
easier way than using buckets
and a drum,'' Ross said.
Ross then set up an old hay cattle
feeder at the base of the lamb
feeder, which is used to hold the
With his high-performance tefrom
ewes scanning about 200 per cent,
he made the decision to take one
lamb off most of the triplet-
bearing ewes to give the other
lambs a better chance of survival.
''If I take one of the triplets off,
then the other two lambs must do
better,'' he said.
Ross, who could expect up to 300
sets of triplets from his 2600 ewes,
prefers to remove the biggest
lamb or a ram lamb off the ewe
and leave the replacement ewe
lambs on. However, he leaves
them on the ewe for at least a day
so they get adequate colostrum.
Though most of the orphan lambs
are tefroms, they are also a few
suffolk-texels from his terminal
It took only a bit of gentle
coaxing to get the lambs
used to the feeder, which
mixes and dispenses warm
milk as required.
Ross said feeding lambs was
enjoyable and no longer a
chore, since the lambs
helped themselves to the
milk whenever they were
The lambs were also supple-
mented with meal, with
access to fresh grass and water.
Lamb deaths had been minimal,
since Ross vaccinated them
against pulpy kidney and scabby
mouth after the disease spread
through the shed last season.
He has also refined the lamb
feeding area with bowls posi-
tioned around the teats.
''Last year I went through about
500 teats because they kept
knocking each other off them.
"The bowls protect the teats and
I've only used about 30 so far,''
The lambs will be fed milk till
about eight weeks of age, with the
early lambs weaned in late
October or early November, at
which time the meal component
Once weaned they will be grazed
with his other lambs, although
they will be tagged separately and
Ross will keep a close eye on
them. He estimates it will cost
about $75 to rear each lamb and he
expects to make at least $20 per
head, based on a 19kg to 20kg
carcass weight lamb fetching
"Another year and the machine
will have paid for itself."
Ross no longer mothers-on as
many lambs as he used to.
''A ewe is not silly -- they know
when a lamb's not theirs,'' he said.
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