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Beyond the Bale : June 2018
In comparison, last year we had quite a tough season. Our FOO levels were <400kg DM/ha at lambing and we were also supplementary feeding the ewes throughout lambing. Under those conditions the survival of twin-born lambs was 6.2% higher at a mob size of 55 compared to 210 ewes. If we're assuming that effect is linear, that equates to a 4% decrease in the survival of twin born lambs for each extra hundred twin-bearing ewes in the mob. We are looking to do some further work to investigate the relationship between mob size, FOO and lamb survival given these contrasting results. How do the results fit in with other guidelines? We know through the Lifetime Ewe Management guidelines that pregnancy scanning and separating single- and twin- bearing ewes to optimise maternal nutrition is key to improving ewe and lamb survival and performance. The guidelines also provide condition score and FOO targets for use during pregnancy and during lactation. We also know that providing access to shelter at lambing, particularly for twin mobs, can improve lamb survival if the shelter is effective and utilised, particularly where chill index is high. From our new work we've indicated that reducing mob size is going to also improve lamb marking rates. The effect of mob size appears to be about the same as increasing condition score for ewes at lambing by 0.1 to 0.2. While it's a fairly small effect, the overall results can be significant when used in combination with the other existing guidelines. The Lambing Density project is in its final year. We’ve completed work on 61 of 70 on-farm research sites, so this year we’ll undertake work on the remaining nine sites. Our next step will be to undertake a full benefit-cost analysis in terms of reducing mob size to improve lamb survival, including the costs associated with subdividing or putting up temporary fencing in large paddocks. We’ll then run some workshops to communicate project outcomes and develop some practical guidelines for producers which can be implemented to increase their marking rate. Researcher Amy Lockwood and Dr Serina Hancock condition scoring some ewes at one of the research sites in WA. A new AWI workshop – Winning With Weaners – is being rolled out across the country to give woolgrowers the skills to lift the lifetime performance of their young Merino sheep. WINNING WITH WEANERS Weaner ill thrift and mortality are the fourth highest ranked priority disease, in terms of economic cost, to the Australian sheep industry. It has been estimated to cost the industry approximately $188 million annually – most of this estimate is due to production losses. The cost of prevention (providing improved nutrition for weaners) is estimated to be only $36 million. Weaner ill thrift occurs when young sheep fail to thrive when other classes of stock in the flock are in satisfactory health and body condition. It results in poor growth, reduced wool production and wool quality (especially staple strength), increased susceptibility to disease (especially worms) and can lead to high mortality rates in young sheep up to one year of age. While there are multiple concurrent causes of weaner ill thrift and mortality, they are all primarily related to animal management and husbandry. To help woolgrowers improve weaner management of their Merino flock, AWI has developed a new workshop called Winning With WeanersTM. The workshop targets 95% weaner survival to one year of age. It identifies key practical actions and tools for commercial enterprises to implement on-farm to achieve this performance aim. Winning With Weaners assists participants in understanding the key issues affecting weaner survival and performance and guides them through developing targets for growth and practical pathways for improving performance from this group of sheep. The workshop was piloted by AWI in late 2017 and early 2018, with a subsequent series of train-the-trainer events held across Australia. Accredited and licensed deliverers are now in place to deliver the workshop and will work with AWI’s State Grower Networks to organise these across the nation. Winning With Weaners is a single day workshop (9.00 am-2.30 pm) with about 15-25 participants per workshop and costs $75 per person. Attendees receive a full set of workshop notes, useful tools to help with monitoring and planning for successful weaner management and a checklist for use in their own operation. More information Workshops are run on a demand basis through AWI’s State Grower Networks across Australia. To find out about upcoming workshops in your region, contact your State Grower Network (contact details at www.wool.com/networks). KEY THEMES OF THE WINNING WITH WEANERS WORKSHOP 1. Understand the impact of weaning weight on the survival of weaners to first joining 2. Understand weaner nutrition, in terms of both energy and protein 3. Set weaner weight targets 4. Understand the importance of weaner management on lifetime performance of breeding ewes 5. Strategies for success – management calendar ON FARM 53