Freak summer rains boost lambing

15 Jun, 2006 07:00 PM
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WA SHEEP producers are marvelling at the increased sets of twins and triplets at foot this season lifting lambing percentages up to 105pc.

The wet summer and subsequent feed is probably the reason for the rise in lamb numbers.

But with historically high rainfall areas, such as Northam, facing dusty paddocks now - ewes and lambs could suffer.

Mis-mothering was expected to occur if ewes were not supplemented with feed.

The lack of feed will most probably mean a delay in sucker lamb availability at the saleyards.

Elders WA livestock manager James Cornish said early lambing producers were experiencing lambing rates of 95-105pc.

Post-may lambs have not been marked but strong percentages were expected.

Mr Cornish said while there was a lot of concern from farmers in regard to cropping programs, the increased lambing percentages meant more sheep to sell.

Elders Northam regional manager Lynton Saunders said generally, across the board, there were visually more lambs in the paddocks.

Mr Saunders said there seemed to be a big number of twins and triplets around.

He said the summer rain and subsequent greener pastures during mating had contributed to the increase.

Mr Saunders said it was critical that it rained in the next couple of weeks; otherwise the mothers would wean the lambs off earlier.

Ewes could go into shutdown mode.

He said lambs would most probably lose the ability to keep growing and would be sent to market later than usual. This would result in a late supply of sucker lambs at saleyards.

Many producers will start lamb marking earlier next week, at the same time as they wait for rain to seed.

Mr Saunders said seeding was usually finished before marking started.

"We are in a secure area, but if we don't get a break in the next two weeks we could be in trouble," he said.

"People across the board are starting to realise that this is going to be a dry season.

"They are saying that this is the driest start they have ever seen."

Agriculture Department Narrogin district veterinary officer Don Moyer said ewes had so far retained their condition but were starting to slip.

Mr Moyer said if it rained tomorrow it would still be six weeks until pastures could supply reasonable amount of nutrients to support lactating ewes.

He recommended supplementary feeding until after the rain started.

Mr Moyer said spreading oats and nitrogen on paddocks could encourage pasture growth.

Agriculture Department development officer Lock Butler recommended spreading lupins instead of trail feeding.

Mr Butler said ewes were more likely to gorge themselves and mis-mother when trail fed.

He said when the break did arrive it was worthwhile boxing-up the flock and handfeeding to allow the paddocks to grow.

"It is hard to bite the bullet and spend more money on feed, but it will pay in the long run," Mr Butler said.

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