Harden producers achieve huge twin to single ratio

Nerolie Gebhardt, Kanoona, Harden saw scanning results this year for her mature mob of ewes at a multiples to singles ratio of eight to one. Photo: Supplied
Nerolie Gebhardt, Kanoona, Harden saw scanning results this year for her mature mob of ewes at a multiples to singles ratio of eight to one. Photo: Supplied

Nerolie and Ralph Gebhardt, Kanoona, Harden had their mature mob of composite ewes scanned at a multiples to singles ratio of eight to one this year.

Scanner George Sims of U Scan Services, Wagga Wagga said it was the best result he had seen, the mob of 729 ewes recording 640 multiples, 79 singles and only 10 drys.

In 2020 Mr Sims had found the percentage of people scanning for multiples had increased.

"Previously 80 per cent of my clients would scan for multiples, with 20pc scanning for wet and drys," Mr Sims said.

"This year 95pc have decided to scan for multiplies."

The increasingly popular management practice is something the Gebhardts have been doing for decades.

Mrs Gebhardt said they usually ran 1500 composite ewes in total, including their maidens.

For the last 20 years they had culled any ewe, two years and older, which was not scanned with twins or triplets, ensuring the mob's genetics were predisposed to multiples.

"We were a fairly small mixed-farm, 520 hectares, with some non-arable country, so we looked at maximising our sheep enterprise on a kilos of meat per hectare basis, and therefore decided we needed to keep our multiples and sell our singles," Mrs Gebhardt said.

The Gebhardts cull any ewe that is not scanned with twins or triplets after their second joining. Photo supplied.

The Gebhardts cull any ewe that is not scanned with twins or triplets after their second joining. Photo supplied.

The maiden ewes are culled if dry but given another chance if they scan with a single lamb.

The ewes have been based on a Lambpro bloodline since the 1990s and this year they introduced Meat Plus rams for the first time. Mrs Gebhardt said the composite ewes they bred were considerable in size, with high fertility and growth rates.

"They're generally an 85kg ewe, up to 100kg joined, and when we worked out how much they eat, selecting for multiples made sense."

She said as they culled the singles and drys, they needed to be careful with their numbers.

"As you can imagine, if you're only keeping multiples, by the time the ewes are six years old, there's not many left," Mrs Gebhardt said.

"Each year we keep 800 maidens and we have to have that equivalent in matures.

"If we have a bad year, like we did last year, it throws the balance off very quickly."

Ms Gebhardt said in most years had 65 per cent multiples and 30pc singles but last year around 30pc was dry.

"We sold off almost 200 ewes after recording close to 150 drys," she said.

The Gebhardts often sell direct to abattoirs as they can attract a premium for higher than average yield. Photo supplied.

The Gebhardts often sell direct to abattoirs as they can attract a premium for higher than average yield. Photo supplied.

Two consecutive years tell a very different story

Last year they tried joining at their newly purchased block at Temora but thought the move, including a change in feed type, the dry season and hot weather, had contributed to the drop in lambs scanned.

However, Mrs Gebhardt thought the biggest reason for the result was that they tried joining at a different time of year.

"I tried to join in November to lamb in April."

This year they returned to a six-week joining in early-February for their mature ewes, with a ram to ewe ratio of one to 50.

"With the composites, the rams come into their own when the days get shorter, so that's why we usually join in early-February," Mrs Gebhardt said.

She said they usually used teasers before joining but had forgone the practice this year.

"We decided not to worry about it this year and this is the best result we've ever had," she said.

The 640 twin ewes will be split into three groups for lambing in early-July, put on grazing wheat and triticale.

Premium for yield at abattoirs

For nine out of 10 years the Gebhardt's composite flock has recorded a lambing percentage of around 170 per cent.

Lambs were sold at around 58kg live-weight from late-October to March, ending with the last of the maiden ewe lambs, which were born in spring after an April joining.

The Gebhardts have recently started to do contracts directly with some abattoirs.

"The dressed yield for composites is slightly higher than average, they can yield at around 50 per cent, so you can attract a premium for selling direct to abattoirs," Mrs Gebhardt said.

"We've worked out the premium for the high yield probably attracts an extra $15 a head on current prices.

"If you sell into the saleyards that's obviously not taken into account."