First Sheep Performance
On our first sheep performance 4WD tour we had the expertise of Professor Paul Kenyon from the international sheep research centre at Massey University.
Our group on this trip were all Inland Road farmers who intend to modify or invest in their sheep systems over the next couple of years.
Over the two days we visited each of their farms and discussed system improvement. While it was very technically-focused the event was big on farmer-to-farmer learning, and taking things forward together as a group.
Some key takes from the day included:
- Prioritise feeding of replacement ewes over terminals
- Put bank of feed into ewe lambs/hoggets as you will get the benefit of this for five or six years
- A very easy trap to get into is trying to do too much when things are going well and finishing lambs at the expense of future ewe performance. It is usually better to do a very good job of finishing replacements and growing out hoggets and 2-tooths really well, which in turn results in better growth rates of lambs.
- Really think about how you use rams. Talk to ram breeders – be aware that rams have weightings for different aspects of performance (potential to put increased emphasis on growth traits to weaning rather than aiming for further gains in reproductive performance).
- Consider using harnesses and split out ewes that get mated in the first two weeks. This sets everything up for optimal feeding right through to and including lambing.
- Ram ratios can be as high as 1/150 if mating on easy country; invest money saved on better rams.
- Ewe hoggets need to be at least 65% of mature weight for breeding – but look for body fat as well as weight. Hogget lambing should always be a flexible policy.
Other tips from the expert:
- While chicory, red clover, lucerne etc. will give better quality than grass through summer and autumn, never graze these plants below 7cm, or persistence and future performance will suffer. Plantain will self-seed so will persist in a mixed forage situation.
- There’s no need to flush if ewes are in good condition. That said it is beneficial to flush ewes that are light.
- Look at ways to improve the quality of herbage on the hill paddocks by using more legumes.
- Facial eczema is likely to spread as climate warms. Night time temperatures below 12 degrees will kill it. There are a lot of things people can do, but the long term solution is to use rams with resistance.
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