The breeding ewe is the engine room of the wool and meat business, so ensuring that she has the best chance of successfully producing lambs each year makes good sense. Her reproductive success is determined by her genes and importantly, by her nutritional status or body condition, at joining, during pregnancy and in lactation. The keys to successful sheep reproduction are selecting and retaining ewes that are proven performers and having ewes in the condition score 3 at joining and lambing.
Genetic effects on reproductive rate from the lamb (direct) or ewe (maternal) are relatively small. However, selecting ewes with high repeatability of good lambing performance, and selecting against ewes which are repeatedly dry or lambed and lost, gives the possibility for improvement within the current ewe generation.
Pregnancy scanning and assessment at marking provides opportunities to identify and retain those high-performing ewes in the breeding flock and to exclude the dry ewes and allocate feed resources to those that are most productive.
Recent work by the CRC has identified the likely gains in reproductive rate from different selection practices and looked at the economic impact of these practices on whole farm profitability.
The number of lambs conceived and the survival and health of the foetus over pregnancy, birth and lactation are all important parts of the challenge to successful lambing. A further challenge is to produce the maximum number of lambs in a profitable way that optimizes pasture and feed resources and achieves adequate growth rates of the lamb for turn-off or breeding.
Nutrition is a key driver of a successful lambing as the ewe’s condition affects;
Is produced and supported by MLA and AWI. It is a best practice package of information, tools and learning opportunities for Australian sheep producers. Information is available via a website, a manual and a range of locally held workshops and forums. ‘Wean More Lambs’ is the module to help you to increase sheep reproductive performance.
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