DOUBLING the turn-off of sheep numbers in 12 months is just one of the measurable productivity improvements Bothwell producers John and Annie Ramsay have been able to achieve in the third quarter of the inaugural Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Challenge.
The Ramsays, who run a 14,000 head flock of merino and composite sheep on three properties, one of which is Bothwell Tasmania, used feed quality testing on their pastures, the MLA Feed Demand Calculator, and monthly worm testing in association with ‘Wormboss’ updates, to turn off their lambs at 18-24kg dressed with a Woolworths specification for the domestic market.
“Prior to the MLA Challenge we didn’t feed test our pastures and last year by the time we supplemented the lambs with grain, their growth rates had already stalled,” said Mr Ramsay.
“This year, because of the feed testing, we knew the DM/ha and the digestibility of every paddock. We could make our decisions based on hard data, and choose to only supplement the lambs in the lower digestibility paddocks, knowing that the others would be making the required weight gain.
“We signed up to ‘Wormboss’ updates and were much more diligent about worm testing – consequently we drenched more often and we had better growth rates as a result.”
The Ramsays, along with five other producers across Australia, are competing to improve efficiency and productivity in their farming operations over one year in the MLA Challenge.
The other competitors are beef producers Andrew and Megan Miller from Windorah, Queensland (who lead the third quarter of the MLA Challenge); sheep producers Marcus and Shannon Sounness from Amelup, Western Australia; beef producers Matthew and Angela Pearce from Adelong, NSW; beef producers Bill and Georgia Wilson from Edi Victoria, and beef producers Lachlan and Anna Hughes from Dulacca Queensland.
All six families have seen improvements in their businesses since joining the MLA Challenge due to a focus on improving their management skills and using tools and evidence as the basis of decision-making.
Mr Ramsay said he carried out much more research into feed on hand, costs and market forecasts to help him make decisions about selling, holding or buying stock.
“We used the trading tool to explore the options in January when feed was getting low. We entered our cost data and analysed three potential trades – selling wether merino lambs, store cattle and store/side lambs. The tool showed that it was best to hold the cattle and sell the store/side lambs, and that’s what we did,” he said.
“Since starting the MLA Challenge nine months ago, we are using tools and data to factually assess the options we have, so we can make decisions rather than stressing. Our confidence in the tools – and our ability to use them – has really grown.”
MLA’s general manager Livestock Production Innovation, Peter Vaughan, said that the third quarter of the MLA Challenge has seen the six families make the most of the information, tools and resources available to them, along with the advice of their mentors, to plan and make business decisions.
The MLA Challenge is supported by Woolworths, Westpac Agribusiness and QantasLink. For more information about the MLA Challenge, the six farming families involved and the resources they are using, visit www.mla.com.au/challenge.