New research from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation aims to understand how to better manage breeding ewes in drought so sheep producers get more lambs.
Research leader and Charles Sturt University sheep production researcher Dr Susan Robertson said recent poor seasons have meant producers have needed to feed ewes in drought containment areas to avoid selling valuable breeding livestock.
“This has meant ewes have been fed during joining, pregnancy, or lambing which are all critical stages for influencing lamb marking rates,” Dr Robertson said.
“On average most producers seem to get good results but pregnancy and reproductive rates are highly variable, with reports of pregnancy rates between 50 and 95 per cent.
“Small reductions or increases in either pregnancy rates or lamb marking rates probably aren’t noticed, or are viewed as normal seasonal variation.
“With the current value of sheep, even small improvements can make a large difference to profit.”
The project team is conducting a national survey of sheep breeders to benchmark what management and feeding practices are used, and to determine whether some practices result in better or worse rates of reproduction.
All Australian producers who own or manage a minimum of 300 breeding ewes and who have supplementary or containment fed ewes within the last three years are invited to take part.
The survey is anonymous and is available online
Dr Robertson said the information will be used to identify which practices give better results to improve guidelines for producers.
“Containment feeding is a whole new skill set compared with normal grazing management of breeding ewes, and better data is needed to develop guidelines which will help people achieve a good result,” Dr Robertson said.
“We are also inviting producers to tell us what further information they need, so this can be included in future updates to guidelines or research.”
The project has been approved by the Charles Sturt Human Research Ethics Committee.
Dr Robertson is one of the speakers at the 2020 Graham Centre Livestock Forum which will be held online on Friday 31 July.