Producing more lambs, more often
14 June 2017
Rod Weidemann is a firm believer in ongoing education for producers, which led him to host a More Lambs More Often (MLMO) workshop at the 3,200ha Rupanup, Victoria property he farms with his wife Andrea, brother, Andrew, and sister-in-law Julie.
“I think that for a lot of producers, there’s not enough education about the science behind the animals and their management,” Rod said. MLMO utilises modules from MLA's Making More From Sheep program to upskill producers in sheep management.
Scanning for success
MLMO recommends pregnancy scanning every year as a non-negotiable management tool based on research that shows ewes are best managed in mobs that ensure the energy demands of different stock classes (i.e. single or twin bearing) are met.
Ewes that lamb down with a condition score of three consistently wean more lambs and suffer lower mortality than ewes with lower or higher condition scores.
Improving lambing percentages and ewe survival has flow on effects in reducing methane intensity, thereby reducing the enterprise’s impact on climate change.
The Weidemanns were originally only scanning for wets and dries, but have expanded to identify single, twin and triple bearing ewes in their White Suffolk stud and commercial Merino ewe flocks.
“We separate the ewes into flocks depending on how many lambs they are carrying. That way we can make sure they’re in the right area, with the right feed, to be the right weight when they lamb down," Rod said.
“We’ve lifted our lamb marking percentage up to around 160% for the stud flock and around 110% for the Merinos.
“One of the advantages for us in separating the multiples from the singles is that we lamb down in very small flocks, so there aren’t too many lambs in the paddock and that reduces mismothering. It also makes it easier to match DSE to the available grazing.
“We use containment when there is limited feed in the paddocks and also when the paddocks are wet.”
This paddock management approach is important for conserving soil and soil carbon, which on the Weidemann property is enhanced by their no-till cropping system.
ASBVs make a difference
Ensuring animals are highly productive is another important component of the MLMO approach, which recommends using Australian Sheep breeding Values (ASBVs) to select rams.
“We’ve been using ASBVs in the stud flock for a long time now,” Rod said. He added that it was good to have ram buyers come along to the MLMO workshop to gain a better understanding of the ASBVs.
“You can look at your stock to see what you like, but it’s good to have the numbers to back up what you see. I think it’s an important tool to be able to use because it gives you so much more information rather than just looking at the animal in front of you.”
In the MLMO workshop, participants are taken through an example that shows how an extra 1kg of post weaning weight ASBV results in eight more lambs/100 ewes (mated as ewe lambs), or two more lambs per 100 ewes (mated as adult ewes), and 10 less days of supplementary feeding to show how the numbers stack up.
MLMO provides information, tools and support to sheep producers to enhance their awareness of current and future opportunities to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from their sheep enterprise and to build confidence in managing variable seasons. It is funded by the Australian Government and almost 200 workshops have been delivered nationally by Rural Industries Skill Training (RIST) over the past three years.
Information on More Lambs More Often:
Priscilla Cuming, Rural Industries Skill Training Centre Inc
T: 03 5573 0956
Acknowledgement: This article was prepared as part of the More Lambs More Often project. This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government.
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