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Beyond the Bale : April May 2009
22 productivity Lifetime Wool worth millions Managing ewe nutrition throughout the reproductive cycle, by matching feed demand to supply, was a key message from Lifetime Wool for West Australian woolgrower Bill Sandilands By Robin Taylor has been conservatively estimated at $15.4 million, a figure that is expected to grow further as sheep producers steadily adopt research findings. More than 200 woolgrowers across t Australia have hosted research and demonstration sites, among them Bill Sandilands, of ‘Billandri’ at Kendenup in Western Australia, who has been involved in the project since it started in 2001. for Bill, who is a pioneer of measuring and selecting production traits on his sheepbreeding property in WA’s lower Great Southern region, it is part of a longstanding search for sheep that perform in all areas. Bill believes the research being done he annual payoff to the wool industry from the national lifetime Wool project through the project is critical to the future success of Australian woolgrowers. “the lifetime Wool project will help define the nutritional boundaries that affect net returns and, in doing so, enable woolgrowers to make more profitable management decisions,” he says. Bill and his son Geoff run 15,000 Merinos on 5,200 hectares in 600-millimetre rainfall country at Kendenup, near Albany, and also crop about 1,500ha. All the sheep are registered poll Merino stud ewes. Bill is serious about breeding performance sheep and believes you can’t improve anything unless you can measure it. he joined the lifetime Wool project to help maximise productivity and “make the most out of the grass we grow”. the Sandilands’ selection process Scanning breeds efficiency Many woolgrowers are recognising the benefits of scanning ewes for pregnancy status, such as more accurate ewe nutrition. Identifying pregnancy status gives producers the chance to reduce nutrition to dry ewes or cull them from the flock. When scanning is done to identify litter size, nutrition can be targeted at the twinbearing ewes to increase production and survival for these ewes and their progeny. In an analysis of south-west Victoria, the benefits of scanning ewes for pregnancy status and litter size were calculated to be $7,800 for a typical 1,000-hectare grazing property. The analysis shows that the management of non-pregnant ewes is important for optimising the profitability of scanning. Of the total benefit, about twothirds was achieved through management of dry ewes, and the remaining one-third could be attributed to management of the twin-bearing ewes. The benefit of identifying dry ewes is about $8 per dry ewe and the extra benefit of identifying the twin-bearing ewes is about $2 per twinbearing ewe. Dr Andrew Thompson, program leader with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), says that pregnancy scanning is part of a package. “It’s not as important as optimising stocking rate and managing the whole flock to achieve condition-score targets defined by the Lifetime Wool project, but it will be profitable for certain farms and seasonal conditions,” he says. He says the profitability of determining pregnancy status is higher when there are more non-pregnant ewes in the flock: “If the proportion of non-pregnant ewes is less than five per cent, then the net benefit of determining pregnancy status is negligible.” This indicates that maiden ewes, which usually have a higher proportion of non-pregnant sheep, would be the most profitable flock to scan. The analysis also found greater benefits from scanning in poor seasons and on farms with high grazing pressures. More Merino and prime lamb producers are using scanning to more accurately target the nutrition of their ewes and to improve culling decisions. Industry estimates are that more than 100 contractor businesses are now scanning almost 40 per cent of the national ewe flock. The study is a joint effort by the Sheep CRC and the Lifetime Wool project to quantify the benefits fr pregnancy scanning and t optimise management of non-pregnant, single and twin-bearing ewes. Dr Thompson says optimum ewe management involves retaining the nonpregnant ewes and then selling them after shearing (during this period they are offered less feed than the pregnant ewes). Single and twin-bearing ewes ar given preferential treatment to achieve higher condition scores before lambing. However, the benefits of scanning need to be kept in context. Dr Thompson says that for the ‘typical’ farm in south-west Victoria, optimising whole-farm stocking rate and managing ewes to achieve condition-score targets established by the Lifetime Wool project are $20,000 to $50,000 decisions. “Ultrasound scanning provides these farmers with vital information for their feed “ UltraSoUnd Scanning provideS theSe farmerS with vital information for their feed bUdgeting – where Stocking rateS and feed needS can be accUrately matched.” – dr andrew thompson focuses on micron and bodyweight, and the stud has been a pioneer in measuring fecal egg counts. their breeding objective is to produce a “good doing” sheep that is productive and can do well under a range of conditions. With the phase-out of mulesing, they are also increasing the emphasis on plain-bodied animals. Measurements include clean fleece weight, fibre diameter, bodyweight, staple strength, fat, muscle, resistance to worms and lambs weaned. over the past 10 years, wool cuts per hectare and stocking rates have been increased by 50 per cent, from 40 to 45 kilograms per hectare to 60kg/ha. At the same time, stocking rates have lifted 50 per cent, thanks to a shift in lambing from May to July–August to match April – May 2009 Beyond the Bale photo: Kellie penfold
February March 2009
June August 2009