A lamb creep feeder is a way to partition off an area that only lambs can get into, in order to provide them with food that meets their nutritional needs. Lamb creep feeders are meant to prevent ewes from eating food that's intended only for lambs.
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What are lamb creep feeders?
Lamb creep feeders need to achieve two things:
- The first is to feed lambs with lamb-only food.
- The second is to keep ewes from getting to the same food.
Lamb creep feeders help weaning lambs get concentrated food that will make them grow faster and healthier.
Lambs fed with concentrates early on gain more weight than lambs that are only given ewe’s milk.
Creep feeding can help lambs grow faster, but it’s optional, not required. Lambs can thrive even if not given a special type of lamb feed.
How creep feeders work
Most commercial creep feeders have a feed holder that dispenses lamb feed automatically.
Some feeders may require a bit more manual supervision. These often look like troughs that can be mounted on a fence or lamb pen walls or otherwise left standing on the ground.
It’s possible to make do-it-yourself versions of lamb creep feeders. All that’s required is that you create a space that only lambs can get into, and that you fill that space with nutritious lamb food.
Creeper gates or fences can separate the ewes from the lambs during feeding. Most gates and fences have slats or holes that are too small for ewes, but are perfect for lambs.
Some creeper gates and fences have rubber or foam padding installed around the fence or gate slats. This is so the slightly larger older lambs can still access the feeder without hurting themselves.
What options are there for lamb creep feeders?
For most, a freestanding feeder is the best. It is the most convenient because the feed is automatically distributed, and a fence is already included.
However, commercial feeders can be expensive, especially if a farm often keeps many lambs. Freestanding feeders have a set number of feed trays that can limit the number of lambs entering the pen.
As a result, some farmers create their own lamb creep feeders. DIY lamb creep feeders may require more effort and manual feeding or handling but can be cheaper than commercial options.
Another thing to consider is the creep panel itself, which keeps ewes out but lets lambs in. Gates are usually the best solution, especially if the creeper area is right beside the lambing area. This way, lambs can come and go as they please without being too far from the ewes.
Freestanding Lamb Creep Feeders
Freestanding lamb creep feeders come with both a creep feeder and a fence or pen. Most units have tanks or silos to hold and dispense the lamb feed.
Some freestanding lamb creep feeders dispense food on one side. Others have troughs or feed trays on either side. The latter option is more economical as it can cater to more lambs at a time.
Freestanding lamb creep feeders are more expensive than non-freestanding creep feeders.
Sheep Feeder Troughs
Creep feeding can also be effective even with just a simple trough.
These troughs can be set up on the opposite end of the lamb pen. A creep gate must be installed to keep the ewes from entering the lamb feeding area. If you install a trough, put it as far away from the creep gate as possible. Otherwise, you may find ewes putting their heads through the gate in order to eat from the trough.
Single feeders are best for those who keep one or two lambs as pets. These work the same way as pet feeders, with a small tank that contains the feed and a dispenser at the bottom.
Some farmers create DIY lamb creep feeders to save money. The feeder isn’t too difficult of a problem to solve (usually a trough can work just fine). The issue is designing a creep gate that can separate lambs from ewes.
Here are some creep gate ideas:
- Wood panels: Some low-cost creep gate solutions use wood panels as a creep fence line that keeps ewes and other animals from getting inside.
- PVC pipes: PVC pipe creep gates are inexpensive, lightweight, and waterproof. Farmers even cover the pipes or slats with pool noodles as cushions for the larger lambs to get through without hurting themselves.
Here is a DIY feeder idea:
- Repurposed water tank: Some farmers saw water tanks vertically in half and then punch holes in the bottom. These tanks act as feed holders and dispensers.
The most important thing when using any lamb creep feeder is to keep the feeder and the creep pen clean and dry. Lambs will not eat if the area is dirty or wet.