Focusing on performance
Location: Wellington, NSW
Enterprise: Self-replacing Merino ewes, trade stock
Producer: Lachlan and Dugald Campbell
Can attending one workshop result in real changes for your business? It certainly did for NSW brothers Lachlan and Dugald Campbell.
When Lachlan attended his first MLA-funded Bred Well Fed Well (BWFW) workshop in 2012, he expected to pick up a management strategy or two. To his surprise, it ended up being the catalyst for a management change that is delivering more lambs and higher weight gains.
The Campbells run a breeding flock of Merino ewes and trade cows and calves. Their target carrying capacity is 20,000 DSE.
Their long-term average has been 90% lambing rate at marking but, in just one year following the BWFW workshop, they have converted this to 105%. Following a second BWFW workshop in 2013, they have set their sights on 115% for the next season.
“I come from an agricultural consulting background, and I thought it was one of the most concise and well-articulated one-day courses I’ve ever been to, due to (workshop leader) Jason Trompf's knowledge of figures and how management impacts the bottom line,” Lachlan said.
He credits BWFW with highlighting the ‘low-hanging fruit’ in their business.
“There is no point in running an underperforming enterprise.
“An underperforming self-replacing Merino flock is a waste of time and money. We are conscious of the opportunity costs from not having a prime lamb enterprise, where we could get 130% lambing.”
Lachlan and Dugald made several changes after the workshop.
They looked at what they did have in their business – ewes – and focused on lifting their efficiency by increasing body condition scores and the availability of feed at joining, prior to lambing and during lactation.
They lifted body condition score of ewes at joining to 3/3.5 (from as low as 2.5), by calculating metabolic energy requirements and feeding barley. They also shortened joining from six-and-a-half weeks to five weeks, which enables earlier weaning at 20kg.
Another big change to the business has been involving an agricultural consultant, Rob Bell, to help better understand the energy requirements of their breeding stock.
“We came away from the BWFW workshop and realised we had some weaknesses in our chain of production,” Lachlan said.
“We asked ourselves: if we can go to one workshop and create these results, what can we do with some mentoring? It is another effective tool we have implemented for our business.”
In the first year:
- lambs reached target weights of 42kg at 180 days post-weaning, for an average daily weight gain of 122g
- the number of lambs marked increased from 2,800 to 3,375
- there were no metabolic diseases or assisted births
- ewe mortality was less than 0.5%
“Not only are we producing more lambs, we are weaning lambs at heavier weights,” Lachlan said.
“It came down to identifying the parts of our business we know well, and focusing on doing a much better job at it.
“We didn’t have to use any sophisticated feeding programs or expensive additional pastures, but every additional Merino lamb we get to trade weight is $100, so that is a pretty good return on a one-day workshop.”
Looking ahead, Lachlan said the goal was to lift the breeding flock from 3,000 to 4,000 ewes and continue focusing on producing Merino lambs to meet market weights of 43–45kg within six to eight months.
Lachlan Campbell E: firstname.lastname@example.org
To host a BWFW workshop in your area, contact Serina Hancock: S.Hancock@murdoch.edu.au The workshop participation fee is $50 per person.
Read more about the lessons learned from the Campbell brothers in the March/April edition of Feedback www.mla.com.au/feedbackWellington, NSW
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