A NEW online tool to assist sheep producers to make crucial decisions about their flock structure to optimise long-term productivity and profitability has been developed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).
The Sheep Flock Composition Calculator predicts changes in flock structure over time, from which producers can determine the impact on future financial returns.
DPIRD senior development officer Mandy Curnow said the tool would assist producers to navigate challenging flock management decisions created by current dry seasonal conditions, high prices and a shortage of feed and water.
Ms Curnow said the calculator provided a clear picture of how selling or changing the number of breeding ewes could impact on future flock production and value.
"The Sheep Flock Composition Calculator enables producers to model the consequences of retaining wethers, increasing marking rates, selling maiden ewes or retaining ewes for longer before taking the plunge," Ms Curnow said.
"This new tool gives producers the opportunity to model and compare different scenarios, which will help give them more confidence in their final decision."
The calculator requires users to input ewe and wether numbers, their ages at the start of the first year and expected sales, the ratio of Merino ewes mated to Merino rams and terminal sires and the weaning percentage.
It then estimates the number of ewes and wethers over the next six years, providing a summary line graph of stock numbers over time, yearly stock numbers by age and a commentary.
The tool also determines the impact of keeping wethers, changing the ratio of Merino ewes mated to Merino rams and terminal sires and changing weaning percentages on breeding flock numbers.
"Producers will be able to use the calculator to evaluate the impact of changes on the age structure of the breeding flock, the potential number of lambs at a given weaning percentage, the culling or classing percentage and the proportion of wethers retained," Ms Curnow said.
"With this information in hand producers will have a better understanding of the short and longer-term consequences of their decisions on breeding objectives, production strategies and finances."
The importance of strategic stock management decisions was highlighted recently by economic modelling, commissioned by DPIRD, which concluded ewes were a highly reliable determinant of future flock profitability.
"Modelling by respected economic analyst John Young has shown improving ewe survival improved overall flock profitability by $280 per Merino ewe and $230 for twinning ewes," Ms Curnow said.
"This finding illustrates how important it is to make the right selling and retaining decisions and use tools like the Sheep Flock Composition Calculator to develop profitable flock management strategies."
The Sheep Flock Composition Calculator is available for free at agric.wa.gov.au, as is the Value of the Ewe economic modelling.