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Beyond the Bale : December 2016
• Ewe nutrition at critical periods throughout the reproduction cycle • Maintaining a minimum condition score for improved all year-round performance • Managing twin bearing ewes differently to single bearing ewes • Measuring marking and weaning percentages against potential foetuses • The versatility of grain as a supplement. SELECTION STRATEGY Fiona says their business’s breeding focus is based around both lambs weaned and wool production. “Increasing our marking and weaning percentages allows us to increase our selection pressure for our replacements, ensuring the most productive genetics are retained. It also increases our surplus stock sales, improving our bottom line,” she said. “For a long period of time, non-breeders have been discarded from the flock regardless of their wool production on the basis of ‘one strike and you're out’, with the exception of maidens, but this year the same will apply to maidens. “We have introduced EID technology in an effort to determine a nucleus mob of high performing ewes to breed replacement flock rams. We utilise ASBVs to select sires for our AI program.” Darren says to get real value out of scanning costs you must scan for multiples. “They have 14% greater requirement at day 120 pregnancy, 16% increase at lambing and a 29% increase at peak lactation; if you get it right they’ll give you a significant increase in production,” he said. “Conversely if you’re feeding singles to multiple requirements you’re blowing dough. It’s a no brainer!” OTHER MANAGEMENT PRACTICES For the past ten years, the Sanders have aimed to maximise their Merino production around their own lucerne seed enterprise. Their property now comprises 572ha of lucerne based pasture for grazing, plus 280ha irrigated for lucerne seed. A small area (80ha) is sown annually to barley as part of their pasture renovation program. “The 2005-06 droughts caused havoc and a steep learning curve – we drought-lotted 2,000 ewes for two summers. During this time we leased a neighbouring property and irrigated lucerne for seed,” Darren said. “This experience gave us an insight into the viability of lucerne seed and we began searching for an irrigation block, purchasing our initial property at Coombe in 2009 then subsequently the neighbour’s property in 2014, selling the original farms to do so.” Shearing at ‘Moonah’ is undertaken every six months. Fiona says this has been proven to be cost effective and has significant management benefits providing staple length is 60-65mm minimum. “There are reduced crutching costs, higher tensile strength, increased fleece wool production and reduced skirtings, improved ewe condition scores, plus we get to market our wool twice a year,” she said. “Interestingly, there is anecdotal evidence that twice a year shearing has also contributed to increased conception rates and marking percentages, because commencing six monthly shearing coincided with increases in marking percentages.” Utilising Faecal Egg Count’s (FECs) the Sanders only drench their sheep when there is a genuine need. “Scouring can occur from multiple causes – often it’s not worms,” Darren said. “By monitoring FECs we now only drench once a year, pre-lambing. We have managed to develop a worm resilient flock this way.” A fox baiting program is carried out every year in conjunction with an NRM facilitated producer group. Baiting throughout the district occurs simultaneously and has proven to be very successful. MORE INFORMATION Darren and Fiona Sanders 0427 473 166 firstname.lastname@example.org • Weaning and preparing ewes for next year’s joining • Setting up for joining: when and what to feed ewes to optimise ewe condition • Linking ewe condition at joining with lambing potential • Mid-pregnancy: managing nutrition for single and twin lamb survival • Late pregnancy: optimising lamb survival and the future wool production of progeny • Economic analysis of different feeding strategies. To date more than 2,700 sheep producers across Australia, representing about a quarter of the national ewe flock have participated in LTEM, since the program began in 2006. In the 2015/16 financial year, 400 producers LIFETIME EWE MANAGEMENT TRAINING funded by the most recent AWI contract graduated from LTEM. In 2016/17, RIST and AWI will support more than 500 woolgrowers to undertake the program. On-going evaluation of group members continues to show significant benefits to participants through improving weaning rates and reducing ewe mortality. Producers that graduated from LTEM in 2015/16 increased the number of lambs weaned by about 6% (102% before LTEM to 108% after LTEM) and reduced ewe mortality by 0.8% (3.4% pre-LTEM to 2.6% post LTEM). MORE INFORMATION For information on the LTEM course, contact Rural Industries Skill Training (RIST) on 03 5573 0943 or visit www.rist.com.au Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) is a nationally accredited, one-year course run by RIST (Rural Industries Skill Training) and supported by AWI. LTEM training provides hands-on on-farm training for small groups of producers (5-6), under the guidance of a professional trainer, in the management and nutrition of breeding ewes to maximise reproduction efficiency and progeny performance. Each participant monitors a mob of their own ewes to demonstrate the effects of nutrition and management in their environment. LTEM is structured to maximise the retention of knowledge, development of skills and practice change across a number of key areas, including: ON FARM 29
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