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Beyond the Bale : December 2018
64 ON FARM AWI’s Winning With Weaners workshops are being held across the country to help woolgrowers identify key management strategies that will assist in improving the performance of their Merino 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 (and often) 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 been holding its Winning With Weaners workshop across the country. The industry targets a minimum 95% weaner survival to one year of age, and the workshop identifies key practical actions and tools for commercial enterprises to implement on-farm to achieve this target. 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. POSITIVE REACTION TO WORKSHOPS Workshops are run on a demand basis through AWI’s State Grower Networks across Australia. Tony Overton, who manages a flock of Merino sheep on ‘Europambela’ at Walcha, one of the larger superfine operations in NSW’s New England region, attended the workshop at Armidale in October – at which there was plenty of interaction, with heaps of questions and great discussion. “The Winning With Weaners workshop was a very informative day. It highlighted the potential gains for our business, allowing us to be very focused on the performance of our weaners. It sets them up for a lifetime of production,” he said. “After completing the Lifetime Ewe Management course, the Winning With Weaners day is the ideal next step to increasing our on farm sheep production systems.” In the past six months, AWI’s Grower Network in NSW, Sheep Connect NSW, has held Winning With Weaners workshops at 19 locations across the state, including Goulburn, Armidale, Walgett, Young, Dunedoo, Parkes, Hillston, Rankins Springs, Mangoplah, Wanganella, Cowra, Corinella, Tallimba, Tottenham, Condobolin, Temora, Wagga Wagga, Yass and Crookwell. Alastair Rayner of RaynerAg at Tamworth helped deliver the workshops in the north west and New England regions of NSW. “Winning With Weaners is a great workshop for all sheep breeders. I enjoyed presenting at them along with Megan Rogers from Sheep Smart Solutions who coordinates the Sheep Connect NSW team,” he said. “If you haven’t attended one of these workshops, you really should consider it.” Megan Rogers says the feedback from the workshops in NSW has been very positive with 99% of attendees saying they would recommend the event to others. “Having analysed the feedback from the first 18 events we’ve held, the workshop was given a satisfaction rating of 8.94/10 by attendees which is pleasing to hear,” she said. “91% said that they learned something new, the other 9% said it reinforced what they were already doing. Confidence in managing weaners went from 6.8/10 at the start of the workshop to 8.3/10 at the conclusion of the event. Furthermore, the dollar value to the business of each attendee of the workshop averaged an impressive $3,787.” 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: To find out about upcoming workshops in your region, contact your AWI 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 LIFTING THE LIFETIME PERFORMANCE OF YOUNG MERINO SHEEP Alastair Rayner of RaynerAg presenting to woolgrowers at the Winning With Weaners workshop at Armidale.
In the Shops - March 2019