Lamb Marking and Weaning Field Day Summary

Matthew Lieschke and Dr Bill Johnson from South East Local Land Services led the discussion and practical session about managing lambs and ewes at lamb marking. Lamb marking is a key animal husbandry task for people raising lambs and typically involves ear tagging, vaccination, castration and tail docking.

Key points from the workshop:

  1. Plan to mark lambs at 2-8 weeks of age. Younger lambs are likely to recover faster. Lamb marking should be completed before the lambs are 12 weeks old. If you have lambs arriving over a long period, it might be better to have several lamb marking times. Marking before the end of October reduces the risk of fly strike.
  2. Preparation of the site and equipment will help you to minimise infections. Generally a temporary holding pen out in a paddock is cleaner than the sheep yards and a good place to do marking. Avoid mud and dusty conditions. Cover surfaces where equipment is placed with a clean cloth or towel. You can use a lamb cradle or hold the lamb securely in your arms (see photo for correct hold).
  3. Disinfect any equipment between animals using Hibitane (Chlorhexidine). Push needles into a sponge soaked in the disinfectant solution after each injection. Note that most other types of disinfectants are deactivated by organic matter and  need to be changed frequently.
  4. Vaccinate each lamb at lamb marking with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine for sheep with a follow up booster vaccination 4 weeks later. This is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) either in the neck or the brisket (if holding the lamb). Needles for sheep vaccinations should be sharp, 18 gauge and 6mm or 12mm long.
  5. Lambs that will be kept for more than 2 years can be vaccinated with Gudair vaccine for lifelong protection against Johne’s Disease. Be careful with Gudair vaccine which can have bad side effects for people who accidentally touch or inject it.
  6. The recommended tail length for tail docking is three palpable joints. In ewe lambs, a tail of this length covers the vulva. Shorter tail lengths take longer to heal, can affect the movement of the tail and increase the likelihood of fly strike. If you are using lamb marking rings, the ring should be placed on the joint rather than the bone between joints, the tail will usually drop off in about 3-4 weeks.
  7. Castration of male lambs is often done by placing a lamb marking ring over the scrotum, making sure that both testicles are included and that the teats are not included before releasing the ring into place (see ‘A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices’ below for more details).
  8. Lambs need to have an ear tag with the Property Identification Code (PIC) if they will ever be moved off the property. The tag can also have other information such as a number for the flock or individual sheep and a V if vaccinated for Johne’s Disease. Different coloured ear tags are used for each year but this is not compulsory. Pink tags are only used to replace tags where a sheep was born on another property and has lost its tag. Use a tag applicator that matches the type of tags. Dip the tag in disinfectant before applying half way along and half way up the ear. Ewe lambs are tagged in their right ear, ram/wether lambs are tagged in their left ear.
  9. After marking, allow lambs time to ‘mother up’ with the ewes. It can help to put the lambs in the middle of the paddock and then let the ewes out to the lambs and give them time to find each other. The male lambs will often lie down.
  10. Plan to wean at 12-14 weeks of age. In tougher years, it can be better to wean earlier so that ewes can start to put weight on in preparation for joining. By 8 weeks old the lamb is getting less than 10% of its nutritional intake from milk. Wean lambs onto your best paddocks that have been rested for 3 months to reduce worm burdens and don’t have nasty grass seed heads. Lambs are usually given their first drench at weaning. Weaning is also a good time for the lambs’ booster vaccination (if it hasn’t already happened).
Further Information

A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices – Meat and Livestock Australia. This guide gives a comprehensive guide on best practice sheep husbandry and more detail on lamb marking procedures.

Sheep Ag Skills – A Practical Guide to Farm Skills

Sheep Weaning Best Practice (WA)

Early weaning and creep feeding of lambs in poor seasons (WA)

Creep feeding lambs (NSW DPI)

Options for weaning (Sheep 201)

This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability. We thank them for their ongoing support.

Sheep Husbandry for Small Farms 2017 summary

Small Farms Network Capital Region Sheep Husbandry Workshop

About the workshop

Doug Alcock demonstrating fat scoring
Doug Alcock demonstrating fat scoring

Our 2017 sheep husbandry workshop was delivered by Doug Alcock (Graz Prophet Consultants) in May to a packed house. The workshop covered a huge amount of ground about farming sheep in the Capital region. Our host was Craig Starr at Gold Creek Station (a mighty fine venue for country weddings and other celebrations).

Craig Starr from Gold Creek Station
Craig Starr from Gold Creek Station

These were the stand out topics for Kim and Nikki who attended the workshop:
1 Hands-on fat scoring
2 Hoof trimming
3 Pasture calculations
4 Lupins as dry feed
5 Using a calendar as a planning tool with rationales

Comparing fat scores of different sheep
Comparing fat scores of different sheep

Fat scoring

Fat scoring is a handy technique for assessing whether your sheep are fat, thin or just right. A fat score 1 is a very skinny sheep that needs attention. Fat score 5 is where you can hardly feel the ribs (and maybe the sheep needs to go in the diet paddock). Fat score 3 is a good place to be.

NSW DPI Primefact 302 Fat Scoring Sheep and Lambs has information about how to do fat scoring.

Sheep hoof trimming
Hoof trimming demonstration

Hoof trimming

Hoof trimming for sheep is done to help keep the feet healthy. Sometimes they get grit and gravel stuck between hoof layers and get infections. Here is some more information about hoof trimming, sometimes called foot paring.

If there is lots of wet weather and the sheep have a foot infection with a putrid smell then it could be footrot and you need a vet. See Primefact 265 Footrot in Sheep and Goats.

Pasture planning

Our pastures in the Southern Tablelands follow a somewhat predictable growth pattern with most pasture growth in September and October. To minimise the costs of supplementary feeding, it is helpful to match stocking rates to pasture growth. In dry years there will be less grass.

Graz Clock is a spreadsheet created by Doug that can be used to help with understandng pasture cycles and planning stocking.

The PROGRAZE course will teach you about how to manage pastures and grazing. Our newsletter will let you know when there are PROGRAZE courses starting in the Capital region or you can download the manual.

Learning how to estimate the pasture quality and quantity
Learning how to estimate the pasture quality and quantity

Supplementary feeding

If there is not enough grass and you want to keep your sheep then you will need to feed them extra. The amount to feed depends on the type of sheep (dry, pregnant, lambs, weaners) and the amount of grass in the pasture.

Feed such as wheat, barley, oats, corn or sheep nuts needs to be introduced slowly (say 50g/head/day for three days, then 100g/head/day and so on) so that you don’t poison your sheep. If they have never had the feed before then you need to be especially careful that a few brave sheep don’t eat the lot and die. Lupins are a safe option.

NSW DPI Primefact 331 Supplementary feeding of sheep in southern NSW  has more information.

Grazfeed is a program that calculates how much feed is needed. See Supplementary Feeding Sheep Autumn 2016 by Matt Lieschke for some Grazfeed calculations for a range of scenarios.

Lambing time

Generally it works best to time lambing so that lambs are being weaned when there is lots of grass. In the Southern Tablelands, lambing in August means that the young lambs can take advantage of the peak grass growing time (September/October) and minimises the amount of supplementary feeding needed.


Sheep have a 150 day gestation period so you need to put the rams in with the ewes in early March to get lambs in August. This is known as joining and can go on for about 5 weeks. You need to feed your rams well before this (lupins are good). Ewes will have more twins and triplets if they are fat score 3 or higher at joining.

Lamb marking

Lamb marking is generally done when the lambs are two to six weeks old. This can involve ear marking, ear tagging, castration, tail docking and vaccination.

Sheep husbandry workshop at Gold Creek Station
Visiting the yards and shearing shed at Gold Creek Station


In the merino wool industry, shearing has traditionally been done at the end of June but this means that the sheep have to use extra energy to keep warm instead of growing bigger lambs. If you shear sheep in winter you will need to give them supplementary feed.

Shearing in late November/early December can help reduce flystrike and problems with seeds burrowing into the skin.

It is best not to shear in the month before lambing when pregnant ewes need to spend lots of time eating.

Many meat sheep such as Dorpers don’t shed fully and may need shearing.

Mostly you need to shear when the shearer is available.

Fly strike

Sheep with wet fleece or dags can get flystrike in the warm months. This is where flies lay eggs on damaged skin and maggots hatch and feed on the skin. Usually this happens around the tail (breech strike) or along the back (body strike). Generally sheep with wool have more problems with flystrike. See the FlyBoss website for more information about treatment and prevention measures.

Crutching is shearing the wool from around the tail and inside back legs to keep dags off the breech area. This helps to reduce breech strike. It is often done before and during the fly season and prior to lambing.

Parasitic worms

There are three main types of intestinal worms affecting sheep in the Capital region: Barber’s Pole Worm, Brown Stomach Worm and Black Scour Worm. If left uncontrolled, these can kill your sheep. Best practice worm management combines pasture management, faecal worm egg counts (WEC) and effective drenching. You need to do regular WECs if you want to have any idea about what is happening with worms in your sheep.

Kate Sawford, District Veterinarian for the Braidwood Region has written a useful guide to Controlling Worms in Sheep in the Braidwood Region.

The WormBoss website has extensive information about managing worms in sheep and helps you decide when drenching is needed. The Capital region is in the WormBoss NSW non seasonal rainfall area.

Worm egg count test kits are available from South East Local Land Services offices and Cleanseeds in Bungendore. The test kit is free and has information about the costs for the tests.

Moving sheep around yards

Sheep need to be moved into and around yards for routine tasks such as fat scoring, shearing, hoof trimming, drenching and vaccinations. A sheep dog can help with this but many people on small farm holdings use a bucket with some feed rattling in it instead.

A bugle shaped layout for yards works well for funnelling sheep into a race or small space.

It is easiest to move sheep if you are beside them. The balance point is at their shoulder. If you move forward from this towards the head then the sheep will go backwards, if you move behind the balance point towards the back leg then the sheep moves forwards. Mostly it doesn’t work to stand behind the sheep. This all takes practise.

Drench gun for oral drenches
Drench gun for oral drenches

Drenching sheep

Drench is an oral treatment for worms. The WormBoss website provides extensive information about selection and use of drenches.

You need to know the weight of your sheep before drenching (so you need scales).

Drenching guns are often rather inaccurate in the doses they deliver. Use a beaker to collect a number of doses (say 8-10) to check for accurate volume.

Quarantine drench any new sheep arriving on your property and keep them in a quarantine paddock for at least three days. See NSW DPI Primefact 477 Quarantine Drenching – Don’t Import Resistant Sheep Worms.

Drenching at weaning is encouraged by Doug (even when WECs are low).

This video about drenching technique may be helpful.

Vaccinating sheep

Sheep are generally vaccinated with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine. The vaccine is injected subcutaneously (under the skin), usually behind the ear on the neck.

This video about injecting technique may be helpful.

Other useful resources

Report from our Sheep Husbandry Field Day in 2016

NSW DPI ‘Sheep Agskills: A Practical Guide to Farm Skills’, available CSIRO Publishing.

J Court, JW Ware and S Hides ‘Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool’, available CSIRO Publshing.

Sheep Husbandry for Small Farms

20 May 2017 9.45 – 3.30 pm 

Location: Gold Creek Station, Hall Look at the venue

This field day presented by Doug Alcock is for anyone managing sheep who wants to know more about animal nutrition, routine practices, calendar of operations, ewe management, lambing, estimating pasture availability and supplementary feeding. In addition to presentations about the theory of sheep management there will be a yard session where participants will be able to handle sheep and learn more about practical animal husbandry. The workshop will be held at a working sheep farm in Hall, ACT.

Presenter Doug Alcock is the owner/manager of Graze Profit Consulting providing advisory services to farmers and farmer groups. His main area of interest is in sheep nutrition and grazing management for the benefit of the land, livestock and ultimately farmers. Doug worked for over 23 years as a sheep and wool officer with the NSW DPI in our region and has developed a number of workshops specialising in sheep husbandry including ‘Top Lamb Crop’ which he currently presents for ACT Landcare. In addition to his practical skills, he is involved in research with the CSIRO and industry groups on pastures and grazing animals.

Cost: $ 25.00 per person plus booking fee

Book Now

Cattle Husbandry for Small Farms

Photo supplied Dianne Burgess

29 April 2017 9.00am-3.30 pm

This field day is for small to medium size property managers wanting to learn more about cattle husbandry. The topics covered will include breeds for small farms, pasture and feeding, worms and drenching, vaccinations, basic health and management.

Our guest speaker Greg Meaker is a practical and knowledgeable presenter with a lifetime of experience in cattle husbandry and management. Greg is based in the Gundaroo district in NSW and currently manages two livestock properties. He is a former educator at Tocal College and Beef Livestock Officer for the NSW Government Industry and Investment based in Goulburn. Greg delivered PROGRAZE to approximately 1200 producers in the region and facilitated PROGRAZE Plus. Greg also developed and delivered Stockplan, a registered training course designed to help beef cattle producers manage and prepare for drought.

There will be a practical cattle handling session for participants including how to move cattle in yards, information about routine care and management. There will also be an opportunity for landholders to ask questions and guide the content of the day.

The field day will be held in Sutton on a private property, address details will be provided on registration. Numbers are limited to 25 participants and bookings are essential. The cost is $ 27.13 (including booking fee) per person including morning tea and lunch


This event is made possible with funding from the Australian Government.


PROGRAZE® for Small Farms

Do you need to know more about pastures? Find out what’s in your paddocks. Understand options for managing grazing and stock.

The Small Farms Network is offering PROGRAZE for people grazing stock in the Capital Region. This course will begin in February 2017 and run for approximately 10 months with eight half-day workshops held on local farms.

This course provides skills for landholders to assess land management characteristics influencing pasture and animal production. It is designed for sheep and cattle but the principles also apply to grazing horses and alpacas. PROGRAZE is designed to help you:

  • develop skills in pasture and animal assessment, and
  • use these skills to improve the productivity and sustainability of grazing.

Participants will also learn about developing pasture and livestock management plans.

The presenter of the Small Farms Network – Capital Region’s PROGRAZE course in 2017 is Col Langford.

Col Langford
Col Langford

Col Langford is a former Sheep and Wool Officer with the NSW Department of Agriculture with over 40 years experience. He helped develop the PROGRAZE program and has a wealth of knowledge about the content.

Col’s expertise in grazing and livestock management was recognized in 2007 when he was invited by Charles Sturt University (CSU) to participate in a grazing management project in the province of Inner Mongolia in China. He is now on the team of the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), an Adjunct Research Associate at CSU and an Agricultural Consultant.

PROGRAZE is available to farmers in the Capital Region including Braidwood for a fee of $200 per farm. Two members from each farm can attend for this fee.

The usual fee for this course is $670 per farm but our 2017 course is subsidised by grants from the Australian Government and South East Local Land Services.

Book now

Small Farms PROGRAZE flyer


Feathers and Fowl field day

Do you want to learn more about free range poultry production for backyard and small farm enterprises? Join the Small Farms Network Capital Region for the Feathers and Fowl field day. This free event will be packed with information for those already farming and people thinking about starting a small poultry production enterprise. Topics include basic husbandry and care of birds, meat and egg production systems, poultry health and food safety requirements for meat and eggs. Continue reading “Feathers and Fowl field day”

Sheep Husbandry Field Day 2016

The Small Farms Network – Capital Region hosted a hands-on Sheep Husbandry Field Day on the 23rd July 2016. The field day was hosted by the Silver Wattle Quaker Centre, Bungendore and was packed with information about the management and care of sheep. Continue reading “Sheep Husbandry Field Day 2016”

Fodder on farms – so much more than grass

Dr Dean Revell from Revell Science in Western Australia was the keynote speaker at the Fodder Trees and Shrubs for Grazing Systems field day hosted by the Small Farms Network – Capital Region in Bywong on 17 April. Over 35 farmers attended to learn about how native fodder trees and shrubs can be incorporated into livestock systems. Continue reading “Fodder on farms – so much more than grass”