Managing ewes for joining
Setting the time of joining for lambing is an important on-farm management decision. Where practical, aim to lamb about three to four months before the end of the growing season for a Merino enterprise. In a prime lamb enterprise, a decision based on the most profitable compromise between ewes joined per hectare, the likely reproduction rate and market price must be made.
Managing ewes in late pregnancy
Ewe condition in late pregnancy has a major influence on the growth of the foetus which has a significant impact on birth weight and therefore survival. There are substantial penalties for not having ewes in good condition by lambing. Ewes that are below optimal condition at lambing may have a significant cost on the sheep enterprise through decreased lamb survival and progeny production. In wool flocks, poor ewe nutrition in late pregnancy influences secondary wool follicle development which directly influences the density and fineness of the fleece of the progeny.
To read more click on the 'Practical Wisdom Notes' tab below and download the Reproduction Series.
Recording full pedigree (sire and dam) will improve the rate of genetic gain in a ram breeding flock. Commercial producers are also interested in knowing dam pedigree as a way of monitoring individual reproductive performance in ewe flocks. Pedigree MatchMaker can be used in conjunction with sire joining records to determine pedigree and is less costly than DNA parentage tests or visually mothering-up lambs. In Sheep CRC trials, between 85–95% of lambs were matched to their dam with up to 96% accuracy using the Pedigree MatchMaker.
The Harvey family operate Gilgai Farms at Geurie in Central West NSW. They run a fine/superfine Merino flock and a Simmental beef herd on 2,800 hectares, which is grazed using Holistic Management principles.
The Harveys had been visually selecting, micron testing and fleece weighing their hoggets for some 15 years and were looking for the next productivity leap for their Merino flock. They decided to trial individual electronic identification technology so they could better identify highly productive animals for retention in the flock. Individual animal performance measures were collected prior to and at the 2015 ewe hogget shearing. For each ewe hogget the information collected was used to generate a Rampower Index Value and Ranking. This information was used to select replacement ewes for the flock and culls for sale.