The effect of weaning age on growth and puberty of karakul lambs
The effect of weaning age of Karakul lambs on growth rate and the onset of puberty was analysed for 80 lambs randomly allotted to 4 treatment groups. Lambs were weaned at 4; 6; 8 and 12 weeks of age with the first three groups being creepfed prior to weaning in pens with their dams and after weaning the lambs received a high protein pelletted ration plus good quality lucerne hay ad lib. The fourth group (control) was kept with their dams on good grazing and the ewe plus lamb received supplementary feeding on the veld. Growth rate as well as feed intake was measured and ewe lambs were teased from 5 months of age and first oestrus taken as the onset of puberty. Early weaning had no detrimental effect on either growth rate up to 6 months of age or the onset of puberty. However, spring-born lambs had a greater feed intake at a lower conversion ratio than autumn lambs and onset of puberty was highly significantly delayed (P < 0,01). It is concluded that Karakul lambs could be successfully weaned at 6 weeks of age or even sooner without any detrimental effects on production traits provided that the correct feeding regime is followed.