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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
about Niel Smith's bare-breech rams. The WA farm manager visited Niel Smith's 'Calcookara Stud' on SA's Eyre Peninsula and bought Mr Smith's first bare-breeched ram available for sale, Calcookara 222, which was subsequently single-mated to 180 ewes. But before putting the new bare-breech ram to work, Mr Smith went through 25 per cent of Stoney Pastoral Company's ewe flock to select those with bare breeches. "It doesn't take long to pick out 20 per cent of the mob that are bare- breeched," he says. The selection method involves drafting off ewes with bare muzzles and checking their breeches to ensure they are bare. At the same time, the ewes are checked to ensure they have the 100- millimetre staple length Mr Crabb is targeting. "When Niel Smith came over to help us select our ewes, we found that bare-breeched sheep within our mob tended to have longer wool," Mr Crabb says. And while Mr Crabb admits this evidence is only anecdotal, he is running a trial this year to quantify the obser vation. "What we have found so far is that bare- breech ewes are producing six per cent more lambs than the normal flock," Mr Crabb says. "We joined four Afrino rams to 800 four-year- old Merino ewes for 30 days. Scanning results showed 600 ewes conceived after 30 days. Of these, 145 had bare breeches and 455 did not. The 145 bare-breeched ewes produced 127 per cent lambs at marking while the normal ewes achieved 121 per cent." Mr Crabb and Mr Smith will compare the wool cut for ewes selected for bare breeches with similar-aged ewes with woolly breeches when the flock is shorn in February 2008. Although he says it is too early to put a figure on the financial benefits of breeding sheep with bare breeches, Mr Crabb cannot see any negative side to producing bare-breeched sheep. "There's no doubt breeding bare-breech sheep will lower our wool cut slightly, but it increases flock fertility by 10 to 20 per cent. So lifting the weaning percentage by 10 per cent is only equal to a one- kilogram loss of wool cut." If Mr Crabb's trial is successful, the ram portion from Calcookara 222's offspring will be joined to Stoney Pastoral Company's 25,000 ewes to infuse wool-quality characteristics from Niel Smith's stud across the entire flock under Mr Crabb's care. AWI's Troy Fischer says he will be watching the progress of Stoney Pastoral Company's trial with interest. Dr Fischer explains that woolgrowers have been saying 'We've been breeding wool onto the sheep for 200 years, and now they're telling us to take it off in certain places', and it is these people who are sceptical of what Mr Crabb is doing. "But I am confident there are sheep out there with bare, plain breeches that still cut plenty of wool," Dr Fischer says. The next steps for Mr Crabb are to attend Mr Smith's ram sale to buy more sires, to class the remaining 75 per cent of Stoney Pastoral Company's ewes during October and to minimise the need to jet the entire flock. ú More information: Geoff Crabb, 0427 150 072, firstname.lastname@example.org;Troy Fischer, 02 9299 5155, email@example.com BREEDING FOR PROFIT SUPPLEMENT BEYOND THE BALE 9 ON-FARM ad-lib supplements to supply deficient minerals. Blood testing allows Mr Crabb to correct trace element deficiencies with a year-round supply of salt, gypsum, lime, manganese, copper and selenium. He claims trace-element supplements have made a big difference to weaning rates. "Since adding supplements, our lamb weaning rate has increased by five to seven per cent and now sits at 102 per cent, while stocking rates are 10 DSE (dry sheep equivalent) per hectare," Mr Crabb says.But it was Mr Crabb's foray into breeding bare-breech sheep that caught the attention of AWI's Troy Fischer. Mr Crabb told Dr Fischer that he did not believe breeding bare-breech Merinos had to compromise wool quality or quantity, particularly if there was a link between bare-breech sheep and longer staple length. He started exploring this relationship 12 months ago when he saw an article "Once you set the system up, it becomes very easy to manage." -- Geoff Crabb
Oct 07 - Nov 07
Aug 07 - Sep 07