Maximising outcomes for sheep farmers

Improving perfromance of multiple-bearing ewe and lamb

A series of studies has been undertaken by Massey's International Sheep Research Centre to identify optimal feeding regimens for multiple-bearing (twin- and triplet-bearing) ewes in both pregnancy and lactation to maximise outcomes for the ewe and her lambs. In addition, the anatomy and physiology of the newborn lamb has been investigated to identify opportunities to improve multiple-born lamb survival.  The behaviour of the newborn lambs and their dam has also been studied. Findings have been used to devise management plans for farmers to maximize the performance of multiple-bearing ewes and their lambs to weaning. Studies to date have utilized traditional ryegrass white clover sward mixes, alternative herbages and the use of supplement concentrates.

Improving reproductive performance in ewe hoggets (ewe lambs)

Hogget (ewe lambs, 8–9 months of age) breeding is a management tool for farmers to increase production levels and lifetime efficiency. However, little scientific information has been available for industry use. This research program has quantified production levels and addresses the reasons why many farmers do not breed their hoggets. To date, the program has developed management strategies for farmers during the breeding period, in pregnancy and in lactation. It has also examined the effects of hogget breeding on lifetime performance and possible long term effects of selecting progeny-born ewe hoggets.

Use of alternative herbages

It is becoming more evident that traditional ryegrass white clover sward mixes are not suitable for many high-level production sheep systems. Herbages such as Chicory, Plantain, Lucerne and Red clover individually have shown promising results. Our program has investigated the development and use of a 'herb mix' that includes Chicory, Plantain, Red and White clover. The International Sheep Research Centre has developed this mix based on its agronomic properties and through animal preference studies. Studies show this mix can improve weaned lamb growth and the lactational performance of multiple bearing ewes. This mix is now been examined in a closed year-round farmlet study to examine performance on a per year per hectare basis.

Farmer learning

How farmers learn and how they wish to interact with scientists, and how they want to receive information is not well understood. The International Sheep Research Centre has developed a farmer learning program involving a group of local farmers. Farmer learning is being examined using three different scientific approaches: a sociology perspective, an educational perspective and using a traditional farm management approach.