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Beyond the Bale : September 2011
September 2011 BEYOND THE BALE 32 ON-FARM What's the best sheep type for a combination of prime lamb and wool production? This question has been debated by sheep producers for years. In January 2009, the Elmore Field Days trial "Ewes for the Future -- Lambs, Wool and Profit" began. The trial aims to compare the merits of five alternative sheep types. The results will assist sheep producers determine the merits of a number of ewe breed alternatives for prime lamb production. The main characters of interest are lambing percentages, lamb growth rates and wool production. At the start of the trial, a total of 210, 2008 drop ewe lambs were delivered to the site. The five breed-types are each represented by 42 ewes. Each breed type group was randomly selected from three properties, with 14 ewe lambs per property after an allowance for culling. The ewes were joined in February 2009 and again December 2009 for six weeks to White Suffolk rams. The ewes are run together as one mob except at lambing. It is important to note the trial is only half way through its planned four lambings. The ewe breed types are: CROSSBRED EWES The most common prime lamb mother in northern Victoria. Ewes were sourced with the help of the $uperBorder$ group, a group within the Australian Border Leicester Association using Sheep Genetics techniques to help breed better Border Leicester rams. LODDON VALLEY PEPPIN MERINOS The second most common prime lamb mother in northern Victoria. Ewes were sourced with the help of the Loddon Valley Stud Merino Breeders Association. CENTRE PLUS MERINOS Centre Plus is a group breeding scheme and registered Merino stud in central west NSW that aims to produce multi-purpose sheep. This group has achieved high dual purpose and fine wool index values on the Sheep Genetics website. DOHNE The Dohne is a dual-purpose breed developed in South Africa using Peppin--type Merino ewes and German Mutton Merino sires. They have been selected for high fertility, rapid lamb growth rate and fine wool. Sheep were sourced with the assistance of the Australian Dohne Breeders Association. SAMM The Prime SAMM (South African Meat Merino) is a dual-purpose sheep originally bred in South Africa to produce heavy slaughter lambs at a young age as well as good quality wool. The breed society is aiming at 60 per cent meat and 40 per cent wool relative emphasis in members' breeding programs. Sheep were sourced with the assistance of the Prime SAMM Breeders Society of Australia. It is important to note the trial is still in its early days. These are early results from young ewes that were born over a four month period and reared in very different environments until January 2009. Ewes that were over 42kg were first joined as ewe lambs in February-March 2009 (only 25 ewes were under 42kg and not joined). Four adult lambings are planned from 2010 to 2013 so data is yet to come for a further four adult joinings. Please note that ewe lambing performance in 2010 did not seem to be affected by lambing as ewe lambs in 2009. The pregnancy scan rate in 2010 was 134 per cent for ewes that lambed in 2009 and 129 per cent for ewes that were dry in 2009. The percentage of ewes that lambed in 2010 was 93 per cent for those that lambed in 2009 and 89 per cent lambed for those that were dry in 2009. There were some differences between breed groups but they were small. More information: The 2010 trial results and further information are available at www.elmorefielddays.com.au FAST FACTS l The Elmore Field Days trial "Ewes for the Future - Lambs, Wool and Profit" aims to determine the merits of five alternative sheep breed-types for prime lamb production. l The main characters of interest are lambing percentages, lamb growth rates and wool production. l The trial, which is half way through its planned four lambings, has published its 2010 trial results. l The results are very positive for Merinos. Elmore Field Days trial The trial is run by the Elmore Field Days in cooperation with the Campaspe Lamb Producers Group, pictured at lamb marking. Left to right: Pat Johnston, Roger Kemp, David Lees, Peter Safstrom, Erica Schelfhorst, Frank Oliver, Max Williams, Bill Johnston, Glen Rathjen, Rod Fiedler, Ged McCormick, Kieran Ransom and Rob Williamson.