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Beyond the Bale : Dec 08 - Jan 09
10 Productivity Beyond the Bale Lifetime Wool program supporter David Robertson of ‘Austral Park’, Coleraine. LIfETIMEWooL The Lifetime Wool website (www.lifetimewool.com.au) includes a number of useful tools to help woolgrowers make production gains. The website includes information to help growers assess: l pasture quality and quantity; l condition and fat scoring; l estimating reproductive rates; l feed budgets in all seasonal conditions; and l ewe and progeny management. The site also includes economic analysis of flock management techniques and case studies on growers using Lifetime Wool guidelines. DIscIPLInED EWE cARE ThE PRoFIT EngInE RooM By Kellie Penfold C oleraine, Victoria, woolgrowers David and Fiona Robertson have been involved in the Lifetime Wool project from day one, when their flock of 8,500 ewes was offered as one of the study flocks for research. David, who joins 6,500 ewes to Merinos and 2,000 to terminal sires each year at ‘Austral Park’, says the key to successfully implementing the Lifetime Wool recommendations is to recognise that the ewe is the business’s ‘engine room’. The scientific basis of the Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) program guidelines, he says, helps generate results that are replicable and LIFETIME WooL PRoFFERs LIFETIME PRoFITs The seven-year Lifetime Wool project has wound up on schedule, and it is clear it is having a positive impact on wool growing and prime lamb enterprises. AWI general manager for wool production Lu Hogan says key findings have already been adopted by more than 3,000 producers. “Modelling shows us the benefits can vary annually from $0.40 per ewe to as high as $7/ewe, though the average annual benefit is $2/ewe, meaning the total benefit across 3,000 farms so far is about $15.4 million annually,” she says. The Lifetime Wool project has been a $10 million investment – including $7 million from wool producers and AWI – to develop practical ewe-management guidelines backed up by rigorous science and economics, which will optimise life-long ewe and lamb productivity. Project investors included AWI, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI). It has enjoyed support from other state agriculture departments, private consultants and more than 200 woolgrowers right across Australia, who have hosted research and demonstration sites – notably the Robertson family of ‘Austral Park’, near Coleraine, Victoria, and the Sandilands family of ‘Billandri’, near Kendenup, WA. Ms Hogan says the major findings from Lifetime Wool were that improved nutrition of the ewe during pregnancy resulted in higher lamb birth weights, marking percentages and improved lifetime wool production from the progeny. “The average micron of the progeny’s fleece will be reduced as a result of improved nutrition of the ewe during pregnancy, and this benefit is life-long,” she says. In addition, the ewe also benefits through increased fleece weight and staple strength, and better reproductive outcomes. These changes in production and profitability can be confidently predicted from knowledge of ewe condition scores (CS) through the year. “By understanding the economic relationships between ewe condition and performance, we can now generate specific recommendations for industry,” Ms Hogan says. These guidelines have proven to be robust under varying on-farm situations. However, the absolute amount of benefit from following these recommendations will depend on other factors, such as When AWI funding was first granted for the Lifetime Wool project, research focused on the effect of ewe nutrition on a lamb’s lifetime wool production. Today, the recommendations of that research are the basis of the Lifetime Ewe Management program PhoTos: KELLIE PEnFoLD consistent, eliminating many of the variables. “In cropping, preparing a paddock before sowing is essential to maximise crop yield,” he says. “In a sheep-breeding enterprise, preparing the ewe for joining is the first step in optimising next year’s crop. “It’s all about discipline, discipline, discipline. Lifetime Wool has created the recipe – all we have to do is follow it.” The rewards of doing so are, according to David, optimal conception rates, follicle development of the lamb and a lifetime fleece value, lamb survival, wool production in the ewe, and good ewe health. The basis of the LTEM program is scoring ewes according to condition – at key times such as weaning and prior to joining – and then choosing
February March 2009
Oct - Nov 08