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Beyond the Bale : Oct 07 - Nov 07
By Rebecca Thyer Wool producers could increase profits by up to $38,000 a year by using Lifetime Wool principles. Whole-farm economic analyses have shown that woolgrowers spring lambing in WA's Great Southern region could be more profitable by $10,000 to $15,000 a year if they adopt Lifetime Wool principles. Those spring lambing in south-western Victoria could increase profits by between $3000 and $38,000 a year. Lifetime Wool -- a national project supported by AWI and five state government agriculture departments -- aims to improve wool enterprises' profitability and productivity across southern Australia by setting ewe condition and pasture targets. Research has shown that managing ewe condition score (CS) through the reproductive cycle results in increased lamb/weaner sur vival rates and weaning percentages, increased progeny fleece weight and decreased fibre diameter, improved ewe health and sur vival, increased ewe wool production and tensile strength and improved ewe reproduction. The project's latest research ties these lessons in biology with the value of production, says Kojonup woolgrower John Young, who undertook the analyses. He says it shows there are more profitable ways to run Merino enterprises. "The work quantifies what some people were doing already and it has allowed us to put a dollar figure on their approach." But for most producers the analysis has identified a CS profile that, if followed, will achieve better economic returns. Using a modelling system that allowed a number of scenarios to be tested, Mr Young found the optimum CS profile for spring lambing flocks in WA's Great Southern region and south-western Victoria in an average season is to allow moderate loss of condition from joining to day 90, provided the condition can be regained with good pasture, prior to lambing. The modelling recommends that growers in both WA and Victoria should aim for CS 3.0 or above at joining and CS 3.0 at lambing. Growers need to ensure that rates of supplementary feeding over autumn are sufficient to allow deferment of pastures and to control the rate of condition loss typical at this time. Deferring pastures is the key strategy to ensure that enough pasture is available for ewes to regain condition prior to lambing in both average and late seasons. Mr Young says the most important target is to regain any lost condition prior to lambing. For the Great Southern region, meeting this target increases value of production by $3.00 a ewe (Figure 2). For producers who are unlikely to have sufficient green feed to meet the lambing target it is more profitable to maintain condition throughout pregnancy due to the large costs associated with gaining weight on supplements. For Victorian woolgrowers, the modelling has indicated that producers will need to increase the amount of supplementary feed to achieve maximum profitability compared with recommendations from previous studies. And again, the most important target is regaining, before lambing, any condition that was lost after joining. If this cannot be achieved using green feed, it will be more profitable to maintain condition from joining through to lambing, he says. Meeting the lambing ewe condition score target increases the flock's production value by about $3.65 per ewe. Mr Young is gradually fine-tuning his own enterprise -- he runs 9000 Merinos with 5000 Merino ewes -- to take into account these latest principles, having adopted some of the biological ideas already. "It takes a bit of learning and extra work, but it's not too onerous. Condition scoring can be done when sheep are in the yard and is probably one of the only things producers will need to learn." And he says Lifetime Wool principles can be applied to different degrees. "The general finding is to limit weight loss in early pregnancy and regain it later on. How precisely you apply this is up to you. Profits driven by lifetime principles A project to improve southern Australian wool enterprises' profitability and productivity has found that changing ewe nutrition could mean healthier profits 14 FLOCK MANAGEMENT BEYOND THE BALE PHOTO: EVAN COLLIS Kojonup,WA, grower John Young says the most important target is to regain any lost ewe condition prior to lambing.
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Dec - Jan 08