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To Wean or not to wean

Project start date: 01 May 2018
Project end date: 14 October 2022
Project status: In progress
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: Victoria
Site location: North west Victoria


The Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site (EPDS) concept was developed in 2014 as a partnership between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Agriculture Victoria. The partnership brings the benefits of integrating with Agriculture Victoria’s  BestWool/BestLamb and BetterBeef network of producers and groups receive assistance from Agriculture Victoria extension staff throughout the demonstrations including monitoring, evaluation, reporting and communication.

This project comprised of two parts. Firstly, the completion of a suite of eight (Phase 1) demonstrations that commenced in 2014, and secondly, a further seven (Phase 2) demonstrations, established through an expression of interest (EOI) process that commenced in 2018 / 19. 

Demonstrating the benefits of weaning lambs compared to selling unweaned suckers for Wimmera mixed cropping/livestock properties.


The St Arnaud BestWool/BestLamb (BWBL) group investigated whether weaning their autumn drop prime lambs at 12 weeks of age would lead to production benefits or cause adverse effects to lamb weight gain. The demonstration compared weights of weaned and unweaned lambs across three farms in 2019 and 2020. At weaning, ewes and lambs were split into three mobs:   

  1. Weaned lambs   
  1. Unweaned ewes and lambs + weaned lambs    
  1. Unweaned ewes and lambs + weaned ewes   

Lamb weights were measured at the time of weaning (12 weeks from start of lambing) and at sixteen weeks of age. Measurements were also taken at 22 weeks of age in Year 1 and 21 weeks in Year 2.  

The demonstration found little or no significant differences in the average weights of weaned and unweaned lambs by the time they were sold at 22 weeks of age. Additionally, abattoir data from one property showed no significant difference in hot carcass weights and lean meat yield between weaned and unweaned lambs. Participants found there were additional benefits to weaning lambs rather than leaving them on their mothers such as managing spring pastures effectively, allowing ewes to regain condition before summer and greater flexibility in their lamb marketing strategy.  

The information obtained from this demonstration project can be used to inform other producers across the region (and potentially other regions) that there are no penalties to weaning lambs. 

Get involved

Contact the PDS facilitators:

Rachel Coombes;

Steve Cotton