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Beyond the Bale : Dec 08 - Jan 09
Productivity Beyond the Bale 11 the appropriate nutrition program to either lift or maintain the optimum condition score (cs) for joining and pregnancy. It is recommended growers take a hands-on approach to condition scoring, rather than, as David says, “trying to condition score from the ute window”. LTEM training, which is presented to participating woolgrowers over a two-year period, encourages running ewes in groups according to condition, not age. “Ewes with a low cs after weaning for various reasons, including rearing twins, need help to recover. Therefore we allocate the best feed we have to these ewes, not to those who don’t need it as much,” David says. The Robertsons are also members of their local BEsTWooL group, part of an AWI-funded education program for Victorian woolgrowers. he adds that by following the guidelines he has become much more aware of the condition cycles ewes follow and the seasonal impacts. “All of us know sheep lose weight over the summer, but it was not until we started to weigh sheep on a monthly basis we realised the extent of the weight loss.” he found that a ewe could lose 0.7 of a cs in the three months of summer, if it didn’t have supplementary feed. “The rule I work by is ‘feed a little early, not a lot late’,” David says. An intensive supplementary feeding regime to increases the ewe’s condition prior to joining is futile on ‘Austral Park’. According to David this results in little weight gain from an often expensive input. Another key recommendation of the LTEM program is to keep the joining period short, which avoids light lambs at weaning. At ‘Austral Park’ the Robertsons focus on using the spring flush of feed for lambing. Late lambs, they say, postpone weaning, which delays the ability of the ewe to recover while there is still green feed available. “Extending joining will only increase conception by one to two per cent. More than 90 per cent of ewes in cs 3 will join successfully in 34 days.” The Robertsons scan all joined ewes and separate dries, singles and twins – a move they have found increases twin survival and improves growth rates and wool production of sheep born as twins. They say it also ensures that the ewe is in better condition to resist parasites and conceive next year’s offspring. “Another recommendation that has worked well for us is to wean as early as possible. It means the ewe has the maximum amount of time to put on condition while there is still green feed available – the cheapest source of feed to put weight on sheep.” Worm egg counts (WEc) are carried out regularly on the ‘Austral Park’ ewes, as David believes worm numbers can increase rapidly and undo the hard work of having the ewe in the right condition. At ‘Quamby’, a 1,000-hectare farm at Ararat, Victoria, woolgrower charlie de Fegely is using LTEM, pasture improvement and grazing crops to maintain a stocking rate of 12 to 12.5 dry sheep equivalents (DsEs) per hectare in his enterprise, based on a dual-purpose Merino ewe flock. GEnERAL EWE ConDITIon RECoMMEnDATIons LATE WInTER-sPRIng LAMBIng on gREEn FEED 1. Aim for condition score (CS) 3 at joining 2. Allow moderate CS loss (0.3) from joining to Day 90, provided that condition can be regained on green feed before lambing AuTuMn LAMBIng on DRy FEED 1. Aim for CS 3 at joining 2. Maintain or allow moderate loss (0.3) from joining to Day 90 3. Maintain that CS from Day 90 to lambing Merinos joined to Poll Dorsets lamb in late July and Merino ewes mated to Merinos lamb in late August, with the aim being to maximise the number of ewes that can be run per hectare. Merino lambs are weaned at 13 to 14 weeks, with an average live weight of 26 kilograms by mid- December. The lambing date is set to allow two to three weeks of quality feed post-weaning before pastures dry off. charlie has measured the economics of changing the time of lambing on ‘Quamby’. A 1 July lambing start means he can run six ewes per hectare, producing 7.2 lambs at a gross margin of $438/ha. Moving it to 1 August increases it to eight ewes a hectare, with 9.6 lambs and a gross margin of $644/ha. Moving to 1 september means he can run 10 ewes/ha, with 13 lambs and a gross margin of $848/ha (in favourable seasonal conditions, unlike those in 2007 and 2008). A september lambing also results in lambs reaching target weight within four months, as opposed to five months from August lambing, and seven months from a June lambing. “The benefits of lambing later have been the need for less supplementary feed for the mother, reduced worm burdens and increased lamb survival,” he says. he adds that the aim is for ewes to be a cs 3-plus at lambing, with 1,000kg dry matter/ha of high quality pasture available at the start of lactation. charlie aims for a lambing percentage of 120 per cent in all Merino ewes with 50kg wool cut per hectare (which is currently being challenged in ongoing dry conditions). charlie says the key areas of improvement on the farm since using the LTEM principles are: l ewes being managed according to cs throughout the year; l better allocation of feed resources – both pasture and grain – to meet the needs in particular classes of ewes (twins and singles) at varying stages of their reproductive cycle; l increased conception and reduced ewe mortality; and l improved lamb survival, particularly in twins. “These improvements in flock performance have delivered secondary benefits to ‘Quamby’,” he says. “For example, as a result of improved conception rates and lambing percentage, fewer ewes in both flocks have to be joined to produce replacements, which adds to our profitability.” Charlie de fegely in a paddock of Banquet ryegrass sown on ‘Quamby’ to help reach production goals. ú More information: www.lifetimewool.com.au; David Robertson, 0409 195 697, firstname.lastname@example.org; Charlie de Fegely, 03 5352 3534, email@example.com recommended profiles for their region at the Lifetime Wool website (www.lifetimewool.com.au). Ms Hogan says Lifetime Wool has also delivered numerous other outcomes to industry. “More than 20,000 producers and industry flock genetics, the cost of supplementary feeding, the time of lambing, access to green feed during pregnancy, and local environmental and climatic conditions. Guidelines and tools have been produced for wool growers in different regions of southern Australia, and it is important that wool growers look up the service providers have been involved in field days, training, events, seminars and workshops,” she says. “There are 3,000 producers now managing 7.7 million Merino ewes according to Lifetime Wool guidelines, and many extension staff and private consultants are incorporating Lifetime Wool findings in their recommendations. The benefits of improved ewe reproduction and higher marking percentages have also resulted in benefits for prime lamb producers. “As more sheep producers adopt Lifetime Wool, the $15.4 million annual benefit to the industry will grow.” To support this, Lifetime Wool recommendations have been incorporated into the industry best- practice program, Making More from Sheep, which will continue to be presented at industry events and training opportunities. In ADDITIon: l AWI’s grower networks will continue to deliver Lifetime Wool principles to growers; l the Sheep CRC has incorporated Lifetime Wool principles into its reproductive performance programs; l extra details on specific CS targets and for guidelines on how to achieve them are available from the Lifetime Wool website; and l the Lifetime Wool website will be maintained and all products and tools will be available to producers and consultants. More information: www.lifetimewool.com.au
February March 2009
Oct - Nov 08