Hang in there kid. Lifting the lid on survival

19 November 2018

Researchers are asking producers to consider the importance of reproductive efficiency to business profitability and industrygrowth, in a new project funded by MLA.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is leading the project, in collaboration with Charles Sturt University through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation to quantify the prevalence, cause and cost of kid loss in Australian goatmeat production systems.

On-farm productivity improvements are necessary for the industry to increase supply to meet expected international demand for goat meat.

"Currently, the capacity to increase productivity on-farm is limited because too little is known about the scale and impact of kid loss," said NSW DPI LIvestock Research Officer Dr Gordon Refshauge.

"Addressing this knowledge gap has the potential to substantially improve kid survival rates, which is likely to be a key profit driver, based on results in industries such as beef and sheepmeat."

The project team are prioritising collaboration with producers in a range of production systems, including managed and semi-managed rangeland enterprises. Input from producers is critical to ensure results that can be implemented on-farm to improve national goatmeat supply.

Determining the causes of kid loss allows the formation of management guidelines to increase kid survival for the different production systems. The management practices needed to address kid loss will also vary depending on the scale of enterprises.

In 2019, expressions of interest will be sought from producers interested in investigating kid loss in their herds.

"Getting involved is a great opportunity to work with leading researchers who specialise in fields including reproduction, nutrition, material efficiency, herd health and veterinary epidemiology," Gordon said.

Investigating kid survival requires producers to compare a herd’s potential reproduction rate (PRR) to its net reproduction rate (NRR). PRR is the number of foetuses per doe joined, which is a product of fertility (does in kid/does joined) and litter size (number of foetuses/pregnant doe). Survival rate then determines the NRR (kids weaned/does joined).

Quantifying kid survival requires minimal changes to management and is relatively low cost. Ultrasound pregnancy scanning is vital to understand PRR and improve NRR. Contractors can scan around 100-200 does per hour for litter size.

The team is encouraging producers to consider what data they have that could be analysed to determine historical survival rates.

In Australia, goatmeat production occurs in diverse geographical regions and production systems. The prevalence and causes of kid loss are unlikely to be uniform across all production systems. Causes of kid loss may include starvation/mismothering, difficult births, infection or predation.

While the collection of on-farm data and the production of producer case studies will generate valuable information, a survey of animal health laboratories and a literature review will also inform drivers of kid loss.

The survey of animal health laboratories will gather information on the level and cause of submissions relating to kid loss/goat abortions in the past 15 years. The literature review will look at Australian and international research on newborn survival and reproductive performance in goats and sheep.

Post-graduate university students will play a leading role in the research, which will build capacity and experience within the goat industry.

Producers interested in becoming involved in the project can contact:

Dr Gordon Refshauge (Livestock Research Officer, NSW DPI)
T: 02 6349 9715
E: gordon.refshauge@dpi.nsw.gov.au

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