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Sheep Containment in Focus

Project start date: 21 December 2022
Project end date: 14 November 2026
Project status: In progress
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: Southern Australia, Western Australia


Sheep producers across Australia are facing significant production challenges due to climate change. Unpredictable seasonal conditions are impacting on breeding ewe management, particularly during the critical times of pre-joining and pre-lambing where optimal nutrition is paramount. Late autumn breaks lead to decreased feed on offer (FOO) at pre-lambing periods, causing paddocks to be overgrazed. The resulting lack of ground cover leads to soil erosion, reductions in organic matter level and ultimately impaired water holding capacity. The impact is compounded over time during prolonged drought conditions. Land becomes increasingly degraded and is difficult to restore, which is detrimental to productivity, profitability, and sustainability.

Although a nationwide challenge, sheep producers in the Cowra region are noticeably affected as they have historically been able to rely on predictable autumn breaks

This Producer demonstration site project aims to increase producer knowledge, skills, and adoption of best practice sheep containment in southern NSW, incorporating the use of AgTech solutions to quantify the productivity, profitability, and sustainability attributes of practice change across at least three demonstration sites in the Cowra region.


By May 2026 in the Cowra region of NSW, 11 core producers and 50 observer producers will be engaged to:

1. Have demonstrated, at 3 site hosts properties, the potential of breeding ewe containment to achieve the following flock performance targets compared to their standard practice:

(a) 10% increase in conception rate

(b) 15% increase in reproductive rate

(c) Maintenance of condition score at joining through pregnancy scanning and pre-lambing (release from containment)

(d) 15% increase in weaning percentage

(e) 1000kg DM/ha increase in Feed on Offer at lambing

(f) >1.5:1 return on investment for implementing containment feeding

2. Under guidance from the facilitator, the impact of sheep containment on whole of farm productivity, profitability, and sustainability will have been quantified by the core producer group over two years at the three initial demonstration sites, with details published and promoted in case studies

3. A series of learning and development activities and resources will have been delivered to 11 core and 50 observer producers to increase:

(a) their knowledge of best practice containment for breeding ewes including infrastructure requirements, pre-joining and joining management, and health and husbandry guidelines

(b) their understanding of how management of breeding ewes in containment can deliver economic and environmental benefits through improved condition scores and deferred grazing

(c) their skills and confidence to make farm management decisions based on their own data

4. 75% of core producers and 25% of observer producers will be using an AgTech solution to collect, store, and analyse their own farm data. Barriers to technology adoption will have been identified and documented

5. 50% of core producers and 25% of observer producers will have adopted or be actively working towards adoption of sheep containment. Barriers to adoption will have been identified and documented

6. Demonstration site activities will have been showcased to 50 observer producers at two in-person events; with additional reach achieved using social media and delivery of two webinars open to producers from around Australia


Sheep Containment in Focus is being delivered by David Trengove from Elders in the Cowra region of NSW. In this project, three producers will demonstrate the benefits of using a containment feeding system for management of breeding ewes in the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Field days will be held in autumn each year, with the aim of providing more local producers with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to adopt the approach.

The project will incorporate the use of AgriWebb, a comprehensive software platform which can streamline record keeping and farm management tasks. The core producer group will learn how to use the individual animal management functionality to collect and store data at key timepoints during the production cycle. This will allow the group to objectively assess the potential of breeding ewe containment to deliver improvements in conception rate, reproductive rate, ewe condition score maintenance, and weaning percentage compared to standard practice.

An important consideration for producers who use containment feeding is the ability to accurately measure and monitor paddock feed on offer over time. Using data-driven approaches for pasture budgeting will provide confidence that the ewes are being released at the optimal time. The core producer group will gain practical experience in how to use the Cibo Labs integration in AgriWebb for satellite driven pasture biomass estimations. This will be compared to readings taken using a rising plate meter and pasture cuts. Perspectives from the core group will be shared with observer producers to assist them with deciding which method to use.

Interested stakeholders can email to receive project updates. Visit  the Elders website, to view a recording of a webinar entitled Individual animal management: from data to decisions. It features presentations by Julius van der Werf from the University of New England and Roger Stanton from Twynam.

Get involved

To find out more contact:

David Trengove