Sheep program adds value to producers’ bottom lines

21 January 2016

A large number of Australian sheep and wool producers who participated in Making More From Sheep events have increased their average annual net income by almost $12,000 (or $10 per hectare), according to an assessment of the impact of the program.  

MMFS is funded by MLA and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), to provide Australian lamb and wool producers with a best practice package of information, management tools and events to assist them to achieve profitable and sustainable sheep production.

Across southern Australia, 11,057 sheep producers have participated in MMFS awareness events and 5,634 in MMFS knowledge, skills and confidence events since 2006.

MLA’s General Manager Livestock Productivity, Dr Jane Weatherley, said this is the first major impact assessment of the program, and included both phone surveys and economic impact case studies of producers who’ve attended MMFS workshops and events.

“The assessment found that over three quarters (76 per cent) of participants made changes to their business, with 66 per cent saying the changes had immediate benefits,” Dr Weatherley said.

The three top benefits reported were increased production (76 per cent), feeling more in control and less stress (69 per cent) and decreased losses (56%).

In quantifying the financial benefits of practice change on case study farms, the review found:

  • Prime lamb enterprises recorded an average gross margin increase of $18 per hectare (6 per cent) and a 73 per cent increase in average profit per kilogram carcass weight (CW) of lamb produced ($0.19)
  • Dual-purpose sheep enterprises recorded an average gross margin increase of $8 per hectare (3 per cent) and a 36 per cent increase in average profit per kilogram CW of lamb produced ($0.09)
  • Wool enterprises recorded average gross margin increases of $13 per hectare (6 per cent), resulting in a 24 per cent increase in average profit per kilogram of clean wool produced ($0.37)

When asked about farm profitability and productivity, the most common changes related to improved ewe management and lamb survival (35 per cent of participants who made changes).

In other areas of their businesses, survey participants also reported improved animal welfare (85 per cent), and environmental benefits relating to improved management of soil (22 per cent) and pasture resources (30 per cent).

Most respondents said they’d gained increased knowledge and skills (89 per cent) and confidence (98 per cent) as a result of attending an MMFS event.

The MMfS website contains all the content within the MMFS manual, including a Quick Quiz to help producers start identifying areas of their enterprise needing attention, as well as upcoming events being run by the program.

MLA will use the successful MMFS base to pilot a new R&D adoption program based on a  small group, supported learning approach designed to support practice change and improve whole farm business outcomes. This pilot is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2016.

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