A unique WA initiative aimed at boosting ewe lambing percentages and the state’s flock is calling for 2015 nominations.
Department of Agriculture and Food development officer Katherine Davies said producers achieving a whole-farm average lamb marking percentage of more than 100 percent were eligible to nominate for the 100%+ Club initiative.
“In WA, about 500 producers each year achieve marking rates of more than 100pc, including six per cent of the State’s Merino producers,” Ms Davies said.
“Marking rates from 2014 are well and truly finalised and we are encouraging producers to nominate themselves or someone they know who is achieving these percentages.
“Over the past two seasons, more and more growers have nominated for the club and we would like to continue to recognise producers who are achieving marking rates greater than 100pc,” she said.
“The club provides a fabulous opportunity for sheep producers to network and share information and expertise.
“A number of producers have renominated, which is a sign they have really valued being part of this group.”
Club can organise tours and specialist speakers
Ms Davies said this year’s award night would feature a cooking demonstration showcasing WA lamb by celebrity chef Don Hancey.
“Apart from the awards night, we are planning a number of networking opportunities this year such as a special event for 100%+ Club members.
“We can arrange live export vessel and abattoir tours and talks from leading industry specialists in reproduction, management and genetics,” Ms Davies said.
“We are also open to ideas from members as to what they would like to see or hear about.”
Club networking works for Challara stud
Badgingarra producers Peter and Ron Wilkinson, of Challara Merino stud, have nominated for the 100%+ Club every year since its inauguration in 2012.
Peter Wilkinson said the state’s sheep numbers were concerningly low when the club started, so it was a great initiative to try to boost numbers while encouraging people to do the best they could with what they had.
“Networking within the club has been really beneficial,” he said.
“At last year’s awards dinner, I spoke to a Ravensthorpe producer and it was interesting to see what people in different areas do with their sheep production.
“I went away from the dinner still discussing with other members the information that was shared on the night. I think it’s important to have an open mind as it’s all the small changes that add up to make a real difference.”
Stud has increased lambing rates from 85pc to 100pc
The Wilkinson’s have been steadily increasing their marking percentage over the years from 85pc to consistently more than 100pc through best practice management.
“It doesn’t happen overnight – there’s a lot of management and breeding involved,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“We find that keeping ewes in good condition year-round is very important and part of this includes pregnancy scanning for multiples and preferentially feeding the highly productive twin-bearing ewes.
“We have also found that selecting for a plainer bodied sheep, culling unproductive ewes and using Australian Sheep Breeding Values in ram selection have contributed to our increase in marking percentage over the years,” he said.
“Increasing lamb survival has been just as important, with a fox control program underway, as well as using smaller, sheltered paddocks with smaller mob sizes for lambing.”
Club open to 500-plus ewe flocks with 100pc marking
The 100%+ Club is open to sheep producers who run a minimum flock of 500 ewes and have reached 100pc lamb marking across the entire breeding flock (excluding ewe lambs) for the 2014 season, irrespective of breed.
The 100%+ Club is part of the More Sheep initiative, an industry-wide collaboration between the department and Sheep Industry Leadership Council to build the WA sheep flock.
Nominations close on February 28, 2015. Nomination forms are available on the department website agric.wa.gov.au or by contacting Katherine Davies on +61 (0)8 9690 2169 or email [email protected]
The biggest error in most sheep systems is under-stocking. To praise those who achieve marking rates of over 100 percent in Merinos is sending the completely wrong message regarding profitability. Run less ewes and everyone will achieve 100 percent while they go broke.