Healthy ewes the secret

28 Apr, 2014 02:00 AM
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Department of Agriculture and Food senior development officer Mandy Curnow.
Nutrition will give more lambs per ewe and per hectare ...
Department of Agriculture and Food senior development officer Mandy Curnow.

AS the 2014 lambing season approaches, there are high hopes of a bumper of a year if producers monitor their breeding ewes.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) senior development officer Mandy Curnow advised sheep producers to be prepared for this lambing season and to be aware of their ewes' condition, as better nutrition of ewes will give greater returns.

Ms Curnow said ewes in better condition would have improved conception and pregnancy and lamb survival.

"Nutrition will give more lambs per ewe and per hectare for turn-off or replacement," she said.

"Having your breeding ewe flock in the right condition at the right time is very important."

Ms Curnow is involved in several projects for the sheep industry, including the WA More Sheep program which is a partnership initiative of DAFWA and the Sheep Industry Leadership Council (SILC).

The More Sheep program is in its second year and aims to increase the State's sheep flock to secure the future of the WA sheep industry.

Ms Curnow said she is hopeful of a further successful lambing season.

"Last year was a bumper of a season," she said.

"It's hard to judge the figures at this stage, because we need a few years of data.

"We had a survey at the beginning of this year with almost 400 producers, which showed they had some gains."

According to DAFWA, there are about 5000 sheep producers in WA with about 80 per cent of these producers managing a flock of more than 500 sheep.

Breeding ewes make up more than 50 per cent of the flock.

The program was designed as the State's sheep flock dropped from 25 million to 14.5 million in six years – a level not experienced since the 1950s.

Ms Curnow said sheep numbers were at a tipping point because of exports and high sales rates and not enough production.

"We were losing sheep because of our lack of ewes," Ms Curnow said.

"We were selling or killing them faster than we are producing them."

SILC representative and Pingelly farmer Tim Watts told delegates at last month's Kojonup Beef and Sheepmeat forum that the More Sheep program was a long-term plan.

"We want to increase the lambing percentage by 80pc and lift production by 200,000 per annum by 2025 and to grow the value of WA sheep products and contribute to the State economy,'' Dr Watts said.

"It's also about building the skills and capacity across the industry and being sustainable."

Ms Curnow said the program was introduced because as an industry, it wouldn't be viable to stop selling or exporting sheep and it was too expensive to buy sheep in to boost numbers.

The cheaper alternative was to lift lamb survival and focus on increasing sheep numbers so WA wouldn't lose markets, capacity and profitability.

"There is a lot more demand for sheepmeat, so if we have more lambs per ewe, we have more productive ewes and a sustainable future," Ms Curnow said.

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READER COMMENTS

Chick Olsson
28/04/2014 7:11:52 AM, on The Land

Excellent article. Practical advice for better returns. Well done Jacinta.
Cocky
28/04/2014 8:34:51 AM, on Stock & Land

The absolute last thing the sheep meat industry needs is more sheep. Over supply is our biggest issue.
Inverell
28/04/2014 1:19:15 PM, on The Land

"We were selling or killing them faster than we are producing them". I have heard this before. Some in the industry like the CRC were saying this 5 years ago. They said by now there would be no sheep left as we are killing more than we are breeding. This clearly isn't the truth long term. We have nearly an oversupply all the time. To say numbers are at a critical level for sales isn't the truth. The Govt has hurt the sheep industry badly with ESCAS. This current one isn't much better, all talk no action at present.

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