Nutrition & Animal Health

High ewe replacement values make reproduction crucial

Terry Sim, April 13, 2020

SHEEP producers have put $500-plus replacement values on their ewes as part of the exercises in the first Lambs Alive Bootcamp over the past two weeks, highlighting the importance of maximizing reproduction.

From 6pm – 8:30pm AEST tonight the Lambs Alive Cut-Out will feature a few of the sheep industry’s most sought after leaders; champion farmers opening up on their secrets; and everyday farmers sharing how they have increased their lamb survival rates.

Speakers will include Elders general manager – farm supplies, Richard Norton; Meat & Livestock Australia general manager – producer consultation and adoption, Mick Crowley; epidemiologist and public health specialist Professor Tony Blakely, and mindset and personal effectiveness consultant Neville Brady.

High ewe value makes Lambs Alive more important

Part Three of the bootcamp featured a discussion with respected economic analyst John Young, who has shown that improving ewe survival improved overall flock profitability by $280 per Merino ewe and $230 for twinning ewes.

Lambs Alive creator Dr Jason Trompf said some producers in the bootcamp, with the cost of inputs, have put a $500-plus value on their young ewes. He said there are now real challenges to buying replacements on the open market, where restockers could be potentially buying someone’s culls and there is a risk of introducing diseases to the base self-replacing flock.

“This is where it comes back to home base – to Lambs Alive – we want to create more lambs, more fetuses, and keep them alive.”

Mr Young said his message to producers who are sub-optimally stocked after being forced by the season to sell down is that reproduction is “hugely important”.

“It must be applicable to most people that reproduction, concentrating on your reproduction, is going to have a very high return on investment, in time and money.”

He said benchmarking work done over a five-year period showed the factors that set top profit performers apart included higher stocking rate (+7pc), higher lamb marking percentage (+10pc) and higher price for surplus sheep (+10pc).

It shows that people are able to have a higher stocking rate and higher productivity, Mr Young said.

High reproduction enables resilience

Dr Jason Trompf

Dr Trompf said higher reproduction generating more sheep to sell at a good price is a key part of an enterprise’s resilience.

“But if they are forced to rationalize their flock after a couple of bad years in a row, with good reproduction rates they can bounce back to full production much much quicker.”

Mr Young said it has been shown that even in a poor season it is more profitable to achieve Lifetime Ewe Management targets, rather than allowing them to lose weight, and it means a producer will have sheep in good condition to sell if necessary.

“A poor season is expensive, but it will be more expensive if you let your sheep lose weight.”

Dr Trompf said a number of strategic decisions need to be made to get through variable climatic conditions and to build a more resilient system.

“You’ve got to build the flexibility into your farm and you’ve got to build the management skill and acumen to know when to pull the trigger,” Mr Young said.

Is reproduction a profit driver?

On the issue of whether reproduction is a profit driver with Merinos, Mr Young said if reproduction is increased by improving conception whilst having low twin lamb survival, then the return on investment is quite low.

“And if you achieve that by having fat ewes at a low stocking rate then it could quite conceivably mean that system is less profitable.

“And I think that’s what was showing up in the benchmarking studies was that what they were seeing was that people who were achieving high reproduction were achieving that because they had lower stocking rates, fat ewes, high conception, low profitability,” he said.

“What has been shown in Lifetime Ewe Management and in Lambs Alive is that lamb survival in general and twin lamb survival in particular is how you need to start your increase in reproduction.”

Mr Young said the data sets of Western Australian sheep consultants were also showing that reproduction wasn’t a profit driver.

“But as soon as they started getting some Lifetime Ewe graduates through who started pushing up reproduction and increasing survival, they started to see in their data sets… they are well and truly on board and are saying that reproduction is a profit driver.”

Dr Trompf said focussing on reproductive efficiency through resource allocation can help focus on wastage points such as ewe deaths.

Mr Young said if a producer did not focus on reproduction through twin lamb survival then the benchmarking will indicate that reproduction is not a profit driver.

“It becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling argument and yet we know that conception without survival is not a profit driver, survival by itself is a profit driver and then conception with survival is also a profit driver.”

Dr Trompf said it is about understanding where the best opportunity for return on investment in a sheep operation is, which could mean using resources to maximize survival rather than boosting conception.

“In Lambs Alive, we take the time to unpack your data and learn where your best opportunity might be.”

Mr Young said this point tied in with the other big benefit of pregnancy scanning — apart from information on where to allocate feed – and that is “information to know where your potential is.”

“Scanning is necessary in order for you to decide on your return on investment.”

To connect for the Lambs Alive Cut-Out call on Zoom on your computer click the link below.
If this is the first time you have used Zoom on your iPad or mobile phone, download the Zoom app before the call then click on link below.

If You Don’t Have Internet On Your Device
Dial by your location and follow the instructions.
+61 8 7150 1149 Australia
+61 2 8015 2088 Australia
Meeting ID: 783-123-835


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