Effect of Continuous Suckling/”Ewe-rearing” on Growth and Level of Parasitism of Lambs and on Productivity and Profitability of Lamb Operations

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,741.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Marlon Knights
West Virginia University
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights, Ph.D.
West Virginia University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, livestock breeding, parasite control
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, market study

    Proposal abstract:

    Weaning, the physical and physiological separation of the dam from her offspring, is a common management practice among lamb producers. Weaning is also associated with compromised health and well-being, depressed growth, and increased mortality in the weaned offspring. However, weaning prior to slaughter may not be necessary as there is an increasing demand for younger lambs at lighter slaughter weights with minimal finish. Additionally, continuous suckling by lambs might enhance their utilization of concentrate rations/supplements and reduce susceptibility to parasitism. These claims are yet to be evaluated under a commercial production system. Therefore, the purpose of this project is to evaluate the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing” on growth, intestinal parasitism, and productivity and profitability. The effect of continuous suckling on growth and level of parasitism would be determined by monthly average daily gain and overall weight gain, and fecal egg count and packed cell volume, respectively, in weaned (W, n =250) and in lambs reared continuously with their dams (CS, n =250) with or without concentrate supplements. A partial budget analysis will be conducted for each treatment/management option to assess the impact of rearing system on profitability. The findings of the study would be communicated to producers through county extension agents, via short courses, publications in newsletters, on the university’s sheep management project website, and in journals. The potential impact includes adoption of a low-cost simple management strategy that can enhance agriculture sustainability by increasing productivity and profitability of sheep enterprises while improving the health and welfare of lambs. ?

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall objective of the proposed project is to investigate the potential benefit of continuous suckling/“ewe rearing” on the productivity of sheep enterprises. The specific objectives include:
    1. To determine the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing” with and without supplementation on growth rate of lambs
    2. To determine the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing” with and without supplementation on degree of parasitism of lambs
    3. To determine the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing” on weight and body condition changes of ewes
    4. To compare the economic benefit of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing” of lambs to market to the traditional practice of weaning lambs and fattening to market

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.