Weaning losses can prove costly to industry

31 Jul, 2009 02:00 AM

WEANER losses across Australia equate to 1.5 million annually while the average weaner mortality rate in WA is six per cent.

Speaking at last week's Sheep Updates on increasing weaner sheep survival and growth, Victorian Primary Industries Department senior wool research scientist Ralph Behrendt said a survey undertaken in Victoria in 1933 to 1937 looked at 16 stations and found 25 per cent and up to 60pc and an average of 10pc as an annual weaner loss.

"If we look at the economics of the situation the cost to the sheep industry is enormous," Dr Behrendt said.

"Internal parasites cost the sheep industry $369 million each year, flystrike $280m, lice $123m and weaner mortality $89m.

"Weaning is the fourth most costly loss to the industry."

Dr Behrendt said the Sheep CRC undertook several focus groups earlier on in the year where they talked to producers from across Australia.

"We asked what their current mortality rate was for their weaners," he said.

"What we found was in WA the current mortality rate was between 2pc to 15pc and what producers believe to be a feasible mortality rate was around 3.5pc.

"So there is obviously room for improvement."

Dr Behrendt said there was further survey analysis which looked at 1410 growers who made self-reported weaner mortality rates.

"We classified those that were 6pc or greater as high mortality farms," he said.

"Less than 6pc were low mortality farms and we found that 19pc said they were high mortality properties.

"We asked questions about management and we found that those who lambed later were 30pc more likely to be a high mortality farm.

"With lower lamb marking percentages, if they had a lamb marking percentage that was 10pc lower there was a third more chance of being a high mortality farm."

Dr Behrendt said this indicated that there was an association between nutritional management and deaths.

"We also found that weaners that were managed as one group also had greater losses," he said.

Full story in this week's Farm Weekly.


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