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Beyond the Bale : June August 2009
June – August 2009 Beyond the Bale reDuCing COSTS 5 Lifetime Ewe $50,000 productivity gain An evaluation of the Lifetime Ewe Management program in Victoria shows productivity increases of up to $50 per hectare flowing to participating woolgrowers Dr Trompf says that during the program producers become adept at condition scoring their animals and assessing pasture. “ultimately, they become very good at putting these skills together to manage ewes to a condition-score target, through varying seasons and periods of feed demand,” he says. “After completing lTem, producers recognised that condition scoring is a quick and reliable tool for managing ewes.” Producers’ attitudes to profit drivers, (back, from left) Jack behncke, shane ewing, ed Connelly, Michael ross and heinrich Joyce of Dunkeld pastoral lifetime ewe Management group, western victoria. in the foreground are Jason trompf and Darren gordon of lifetime Wool. such as supplementary feeding decisions, also changed. They were asked to rate profit drivers by giving them a score out of five. At the beginning of the program, managing ewes to condition-score targets rated fairly low as a profit driver (2.6 out of 5). however, upon completion it was considered much more valuable (4.5 out of 5). On average, across the 100 producers By Robin Taylor ncreased productivity due to higher stocking rates, reduced ewe mortality and increased lambing percentages – these are some of the gains reported by Victorian woolgrowers participating in the lifetime ewe management (lTem) program. lTem is a two-year training program based on the outcomes of the lifetime wool program. it encourages producers to run ewes in groups according to condition rather than age. Consultant Dr Jason Trompf, who I helped develop lTem and has recently evaluated 100 participating woolgrowers, says the program enables growers to better understand ewe nutrition. he says it gives woolgrowers confidence to maintain and, in some cases, increase stocking rates. Dr Trompf believes the program could help offset falling ewe numbers by increasing reproductive efficiency. “The national flock is declining and we can’t turn around ewe numbers overnight, but we can increase reproductive efficiency,” he says. The value of the productivity changes – increases in stocking rate and ewe wool, reduced ewe mortality, an increase in lambs weaned and better wool frommerino lambs – added up to an increase of $50 a hectare, or a staggering $50,000 per farm (based on an average-sized property in southern Victoria). in Victoria, the program has been developed and delivered through rural industries Skills Training (riST) in hamilton. groups of four producers attend six sessions a year with a facilitator. Program developer and lTem program leader Darren gordon, of riST, says the key to the program is the small group model, which makes it easier for woolgrowers to make changes. “having four or five growers, on their own properties, making management decisions and then coming back six to eight weeks later to assess the outcomes is a great way to understand the impact of feeding decisions,” Darren says. The objectives of lTem are to: l improve understanding of the impact of ewe nutrition on ewe and progeny performance; l develop skills and confidence to adopt lifetime wool management guidelines; and l demonstrate on participants’ properties that lifetime wool guidelines are practical and profitable. Scoring ewes according to condition at key times, such as weaning and before joining, has become common practice among producers who have completed the lTem program. At the beginning of the program only five per cent of growers were condition scoring ewes as part of their normal farm management. By 2008 the figure had increased to 96 per cent. surveyed, stocking rates increased by 14 per cent, lambing percentage increased by 13 per cent (across all groups –merino and crossbred), and ewe mortality fell by 44 per cent. “The better understanding of ewe nutrition is flowing through to better conception and survival rates,” Dr Trompf says. About 20 groups have recently completed the two-year course, another 20 groups are in their second year, and about 30 new groups started in Victoria in spring 2008. in addition, 10 new groups have started in western Australia, and there is agreement for a national pilot – funded by the Cooperative research Centre for Sheep industry innovation (Sheep CrC) and its partners in wA, South Australia, Tasmania and new South wales – to begin this year. more than two million ewes have already been brought into the program. More information: www.rist.com.au/ lifetimewoolmanagement.htm; www.lifetimewool.com.au key poiNts l The Lifetime Ewe Management program enables woolgrowers to better understand ewe nutrition l The value of productivity changes has been up to $50 per hectare in Victoria l Stocking rates increased by 14%, lambing percentages increased by 13%, ewe mortality fell by 44% PhOTO: mAriuS Cuming
April May 2009
September November 2009