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Sheep meat production systems

The Maryborough BestWool-BestLamb group conducted a sheep meat production systems project to compare systems on members farms.  The aim was to increase prime lamb production and whole flock profitability from enterprises that have, in the past being based on medium-fine wool. Fourteen group members measured the performance of 57 ewe and lambs groups over the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enterprises studied included; 

(i) second cross prime lambs from Border Leicester x Merino ewe as well as White Suffolk x Merino cross ewes. 

(ii) first cross prime lambs from terminal sires over merino ewes, 

(iii) Self replacing Merino flocks marketing lambs as either refinisher stores at ages from 4 to 10 months or prime merino wether lambs from 11 to 13 months of age and 

(iv) Self replacing merino flocks marketing wethers between 1.5 and 2.5 years of age. 

Members compared their measurements and discussed their results.  Farm management changes resulting from these studies included; 

(i) marketing merino lambs at younger ages as stores rather than holding them for extended periods as stores; 

(ii) using specialty fodder crops for finishing lambs over the summer-autumn; 

(iii) very limited use of intensive grain feeding; 

(iv) improving pasture based nutrition for merino wether lambs; 

(v) changes to lambing time; for some spring lambing flocks, it meant bringing lambing forward 4 to 6 weeks, for an autumn lambing flock, it meant putting it back a month; 

(vi) changing ewe breeds and in particular retaining White Suffolk x Merino cross prime lambs as crossbred ewes for lamb production and the trailing of dual purpose Merinos; 

(vii) pregnancy scanning and differential treatment of ewes carrying singles or twins or dry ewes; (viii) seeking better merino lamb marketing opportunities and; 

(ix) commencing a Lifetime Ewe course. 

Economic analyses done as part of this project and using data from other studies indicated priorities as; 

(i) for short term cash flow were a change to lambing time and pregnancy scanning, each of which has the potential to increase whole farm income by nil to $10,000 per year in a 5000 DSE flock; 

(ii) medium term cash flow was to retain White Suffolk x Merino cross ewes that could lead to an annual income increase of around $22,000 per year in a 5000 DSE crossbred ewe flock; less if a proportion of the flock was retained as merinos; and 

(iii) long term cash flow benefited most from a change to high performing dual purpose Merinos that had the potential to increase whole farm income by up to $60,000 per year in a 5000 DSE flock, but it would take 8 to 10 years for the full benefits of this to flow through the flock.


Title Size Date published
223.2KB 04/11/2011


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
2007/V02 - Sheepmeat Production Systems
09/07/2007 13/10/2010

This page was last updated on 05/07/2018

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