German scientists evaluated the effects of age at weaning in combination with different weaning procedures on two breeds of lambs (Merinoland, Rhoenschaf). Lambs were weaned at either 8 or 16 weeks of age in two stages or with the traditional method of weaning by abrupt separation.
In the 2-stage treatment, the lambs were prevented from suckling their dams for 1 week (stage 1) before their separation (stage 2). Control lambs were nursed by their dams until they were separated. Lamb body weight and behavior were recorded before and after separation.
After separation, lambs weaned at 8 weeks of age had better average daily gain (ADG) than lambs weaned at 16 weeks of age. ADG until 12 and 16 weeks of age did not differ for either treatment in the study.
Based on behavior data, lambs weaned in two stages were less distressed than lambs weaned by the traditional method of abrupt separation. Control lambs had higher agitation scores regardless of weaning age or breed.
Read abstract in Journal of Animal Science (January 2008)