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Beyond the Bale : December 2016
OVER THE MOON AT MOONAH For woolgrowers Darren and Fiona Sanders of ‘Moonah’ near Keith in the south-east of South Australia, the main profit driver of any grazing business is production per hectare. To this end they have a focus on their flock’s reproduction rates and wool cut. “We have managed to manipulate our flock to deliver a high level of fecundity and lamb survival, while producing a respectable weight of wool,” Darren said. “The bottom line is if you provide your ewes with their requirements, you will receive a sound return on investment. The same applies to weaners.” The Sanders moved to Keith in 1996 after 13 years in the dairy industry. They were given an opportunity by Darren’s parents to manage their own property and began business together in 2000 purchasing their first flock of Merino ewes and growing cereals. Sixteen years later, they today run a self- replacing Merino flock at their 852ha property. This year they will join 1,450 ewes, which are 19.5 micron plain bodied Merino ewes. Approximately 25-30% will be joined to White Suffolk rams for prime lambs. They are also trading Merino wethers. APPLYING LIFETIME EWE MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES Darren and Fiona participated in a Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) course with the Keith group in 2014 and 2015, facilitated by farm consultant Ken Solly. The LTEM course, supported by AWI, provides materials and develops skills to help sheep producers improve animal nutrition, lambing percentages and weaning rates. Darren says the best aspect of LTEM was learning the nutritional requirements of ewes through the reproduction cycle, understanding how this is influenced by pregnancy status (multiples/singles) and determining Feed On Offer (FOO) and potential supplementary requirements. “Since being involved with our LTEM group with Ken Solly we have increased marking by 23% to 131.5% ewes mated. This includes all maidens and an AI program involving 160 ewes, which represents 14% of last year’s overall flock,” Darren said. After completing a Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) course, South Australian woolgrowers Darren and Fiona Sanders increased their expectations for their flock of Merino ewes and subsequently lifted their marking percentages with outstanding results. “We were able to achieve this in two years by paying particular attention to the ewes’ needs and not allowing them to fall below condition score 3. “Ewe status, condition scoring and FOO assessment is an integral part of ewe management. It allows us to predict what ewe requirements will be, assess what is on offer in the paddock and ensure we supplementary feed if necessary to fulfil their requirements. “Condition scoring gives us the ability to separate ewes if necessary. Only those that require supplementary feed based on their reproduction status and condition score receive grain. This also ensures supplementary feed costs are reduced to optimal levels.” The Sanders say they have adopted at ‘Moonah’ much of the knowledge they acquired through LTEM, and lists the following aspects in particular: • Pasture assessment (FOO) and supplementary feeds to manage ewe requirements Fiona and Darren Sanders with their flock of Merinos feeding on lucerne at Keith in South Australia. 28 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2017