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Western Australia

The Western Australia Livestock Advisor Updates workshop was held in Perth on 30 October with over 40 livestock industry advisors and professionals in attendance. Presentation details are available below. View our Perth event overview infographic.

Whole body energy and whole farm efficiency

Sarah Blumer Murdoch University

Key messages

  1. Managing the adult ewe flock consumes 60-70% of energy resources.
  2. Income and cost per hectare are the drivers of profitability.
  3. Single trait focus is likely to compromise ease of management traits.
  4. Residual feed intake (RFI) is the difference between the cohort mean in MJ and work on this has mainly focused on growing animals. Murdoch Uni research work is focusing on understanding residual feed intake for adult animals and how energy is partitioned between muscle and fat.
  5. All feed efficiency is not equal!!! More work is being done to better understand feed efficiency.

Useful resources

  1. There is lots of research work still to do to fully understand what is being observed (including developing easy to measure proxies for RFI)
  2. As answers are found, the information will be built into existing tools (e.g. working with Sheep Genetics)
  3. As always – Lifetime Wool
  4. Condition scoring – be accurate. Within genotype = 0.7 correlation with DXA WBE

Reducing mob size to improve lamb survival

Amy Lockwood, Murdoch University

Key points

  1. Smaller mobs = better lamb survival (decrease mob size by 100 ewes = 5% increase in marking rate). Influence of mob size greater for twins than singles and when lambing onto limited FOO.
  2. Lamb survival not influenced by stocking rate
  3. Prioritise smaller paddocks for twins
  4. Optimum mob sizes and economic returns from paddock subdivision (either temporary or permanent), to enable smaller mobs to be run at lambing are enterprise-specific.

Useful resources

What is a bucket file? The basics of electronic ID

Kelly Gorter, KG Livestock services

Key points

  • Positive return on investment
  • Start with the basics, gradually build up
  • Collect lifetime individual animal performance data, that can be used to make management decisions
  • Remove human error in record keeping
  • Select on performance - shift the bell curve.

Sheep tech – fake news or the real deal?

Ed Riggall, AgPro Management

Key points

  • Old school technologies such as super, sub-clover and stocking rate are still profit drivers.
  • Most new technologies make business money through saving time.
  • Technologies such as sheep handlers and yards bring the business into alignment with other manual labour industries.
  • Know your client and their capabilities- you can give them the power but will they use it?
  • Much tech is becoming ‘plug and play’ gear that anyone can use, however some also requires some finesse and interest in technology (e.g. drones).
  • A good rule of thumb is to always try technology in your operation before buying it (e.g. trial a handler in your yards).
  • A good lead up race is as important as the handler - no matter how expensive.
  • Technologies that provide the most benefit to most businesses:
    - Remote water monitoring systems are huge time savers, especially for troughs.
    - Get the basics! Laneways & covered sheep yards and sprinklers.
    - Get the right handler for the number of people working in the business.
  • Agtech bubble? There is lots of investment for start-ups in ag tech. By default this is subsidising the industry as most business aren’t making money.

Filling feed gaps with fodder crops

Simon Wallwork, Hacienda Farming

Key points

  • Simple system compatible with cropping system and good utilisation of equipment:
    - Very early sown barley – Planet
    - Sown like a crop – harvested with livestock
    - 2 paddocks side by side
    - Graze crops if required
    - Hay freeze in September – crop rotational benefits
  • Aimed at filling the seasonal feed gaps and addressing drying trends
  • Seems to work for cattle and sheep and there are rotational benefits for cropping phase
  • More research could be conducted on fodder crop, rotational benefits of both winter and summer fodder, value of species mix in system, and full economic analysis / system benefits (including soil biology) of summer fodder.

WA sheep and wool markets 101

Clark Skinner, Elders and Scott Shenton, Wool Agency

Key points

The current state of play in wool markets:

  • Wool market and demand is directly linked to economic activity of consuming countries.
  • China is the number one market for processing and end user consumption of Australian wool.
  • Time of shearing doesn’t demonstrably affect prices received.
  • Production is currently down over 14%.
  • Exports are down over 14%
  • First-hand offered and sold at auction are down over 25%
  • Consumption in all key markets, particularly China is soft.
  • US-China trade situation is creating a highly uncertain and volatile market
  • On a more positive note, competing fibre ratios for cotton and synthetics are on the lower side.

The current state of play in sheep meat markets:

  • Strong demand for sheep meat set to continue.
  • WA selling season begins August in with early new season lamb. Peak turnoff is typically late September into October.
  • The change in the definition of lamb has increased supply of lambs into the early market (August).
  • Store lambs sell at good prices before Christmas. This is a valuable option for late drop lambs. 
  • Consistently a spike in the lamb market prior to Australia Day
  • March to April: Dry sheep start coming onto the market (including whether lambs, retained lambs)
  • If there is no autumn rain, then typically ewe hoggets to come onto the market in late autumn.
  • If it’s a wet year, the market will run out of sheep by June as producers start to restock/keep sheep and therefore the price of lamb will increase.

Sheep in the wheatbelt – July lambing

Kim Creagh, R.R Creagh & Co, "Tamarua"

Key points

  • July lambing works in the eastern wheatbelt.
  • July lambing provides the potential to increase profit with the following additional benefits:
    - Lamb onto green feed
    - Decrease conflicts with cropping operations
    - Increased lambing percentage
    - Increased stocking rate
  • Keep it simple – big mobs, out of the way of cropping.
  • Think per ha (not per head).

Show me the money – How PGS can be used to demonstrate profit drivers, make serious on farm change and make it accessible to more participants

Ed Riggall (AgPro Management) and Matthew Nield (Blackwood Grazing)

Key points

  • More of LESS
  • Stay on track – it’s easy to get lost in the detail
  • Benchmarking - imperfect but powerful
  • It’s all about communication

Useful resources