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Beyond the Bale : September 2019
38 ON FARM Ben Banks and his wife Oona manage a 46,500 hectare family property, ‘Rivington’, west of Blackall, where they run 25,000 Merinos when the season permits. For close to a decade the couple have also operated a contract pregnancy-scanning business, processing around 100,000 head of sheep annually. With buoyant wool prices and growing industry optimism thanks to wild dog fencing, Ben said breeding flocks were becoming increasingly valuable. “Improving the fertility and productivity of your own flock is the most cost-effective way to boost your sheep numbers,” said Ben. The western Queensland producer said he had used pregnancy scanning as an integral part of his own operation in recent years to lift production and in turn bolster profitability. “I think scanning is one of the most under- utilised resources especially in central- western Queensland, where there is so much potential for improving management of pregnant ewes,” he said. “The information from scanning can assist you to make more informed decisions when to management. Central-western Queensland is a harsh pastoral environment, but by identifying pregnancy status, we can tailor nutrition and husbandry management programs so we end up marking more lambs.” He said pregnancy scanning also allowed producers to draft ewes into mobs of multiple or single bearing ewes, as well as culling infertile animals, which improved flock efficiency and ensured feed was being utilised by the most productive animals. “Twinning ewes can be run in smaller mobs and fed to meet their extra nutritional requirements. Alternatively, if you opt to sell a scanned-in-lamb ewe they generally make around $20 a head more than a station-mated female,” Ben said. “Meanwhile single ewes can be run in larger mobs and dry ewes can be run like wethers or sold.” Within his own operation, Ben said he had become increasingly focused on scanning for multiple pregnancies, so more productive ewes were managed effectively to ensure they delivered lambs on the ground. “Since we started scanning every year, we have been able to improve our flock’s fertility, because we know what our ewes are really producing,” he said. “For example, when we first started scanning at Rivington, in the initial year we Blackall wool producer Ben Banks believes introducing a pregnancy-scanning program is an investment that can lift flock fertility by 10 to 15 per cent annually and help fine-tune ewe management. found we had about 75 per cent of ewes in lamb, so we were able to identify and cull infertile females. “The following year we did the same thing, and by keeping the productive ewes and culling the non-performers we were able to lift our average to around 85 to 90 per cent scanned-in-lamb.” He said in real terms introducing a regular pregnancy-scanning program allowed him to lift flock fertility by 10 to 15 per cent within one year. “This is something that other producers could also do, because essentially it is about having more information to make better-informed management decisions,” Ben said. “Regardless of mob size, that sort of improvement, in terms of knowing what ewes are fertile and what they are producing for you, can make a significant difference to your bank balance at the end of the day. “To me it makes sense to know what your ewes are doing and while it might cost 60 cents per head, the benefit is you increase the number of lambs on the ground each season and you are better able to prepare for the lambing season. “I think everyone should get into it and make more out of your sheep. You’ve got to make every single animal count and they’re worth so much money now that spending a few extra cents on scanning them is worth it.” AWI’s Lifetime Ewe Management course provides skills in condition scoring, pasture assessment and best practice ewe and lamb management to increase wool production, stocking rate and reproduction efficiency, mainly through better matching nutrition to ewe requirements and reducing ewe and lamb mortality. For information about the course, visit www.rist.edu.au/lifetime-ewe- management or call 1800 883 343. SCANNING KEY TO INCREASE IN FLOCK FERTILITY Woolgrower Ben Banks from Blackall, Queensland TOP 5 BENEFITS OF PREGNANCY SCANNING 1. Powerful measurement, management and forecasting tool 2. Early identification of fertility or other health issues impacting your flock’s productivity 3. Allows you to manage the nutrition requirements of single and twin-bearing ewes to maximise lamb survivability 4. Can help identify possible diseases in your ram team that may be affecting fertility 5. Producers should examine flock nutrition, possible diseases and their ram team management to help identify any fertility issues highlighted by pregnancy scanning.
In the Shops - September 2019