Producers aim to make high pregnancy scanning results flow through and transpire at lamb marking

Professor Bruce Allworth

Professor Bruce Allworth

THE gloss may be lacking from the wool market right now, but those in the sheep industry have plenty of good news stories to share.

This season there have been reports of twins and triplets in the mix to push figures as high as 210 per cent for Tim and Bek Lubke of "Strathview", at Henty. Other flocks have had good results too. The feedback shows an effort to address management, embrace change and adopt data-backed genetics. Now the aim for the wider industry to push high figures to transpire at lamb marking later in the year.

Professor Bruce Allworth farms at Holbrook in the eastern Riverina and is also a director with Fred Morley Centre and a member of the Graham Centre in Wagga.

Professor Allworth was aware of the excellent scanning results recorded in this area, and said now the focus was on nutrition. He said nutrition was critical in terms of making sure the body weight of twin lambs was kept optimal.

"The biggest difficulty is (in) lower body weight lambs," he said. Milk production in ewes was essential to seeing the good figures backed up again at marking in an overall indication of survival rates.

"Generally speaking, this year, producers will have somewhere between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of ewes (carrying) twins," he said. From a management perspective many producers used pregnancy scanning figures to separate ewes with singles and those with twins.

Professor Allworth said separating triplets from twins wasn't always worth identifying. But he confirmed there were mobs that did get a considerable number of triplets.

In addition to ewe management and nutrition he said it was important to provide adequate shelter.

And another recommendation was to keep the numbers of lambs in one paddock lower. This in itself proved difficult in some instances due to the fact that twins were often lambing in the same mob.

Professor Allworth said paddock management was crucial to seeing good results again at lamb marking.

And while high fertility was a goal and producers wanted to get the most lambs on the ground as possible, he noted management had to correlate.

He said research had been conducted into looking at the pregnancy scanning percentage and comparing that with the later figures recorded at lamb marking.

"There has always been a difference between Merino and non-Merino ewes," he said.

"What we have found is that we lose around 10 per cent of single lambs and (up to) 30 per cent of twin lambs," he said.

This figure relating to twin lambs emphasised the management needs of both adequate nutrition and shelter.

"That (loss) averages around 20 per cent of lambs lost depending on singles and twins," he said.

In a flock that records around 140 per cent to 150 per cent of ewes in lamb during pregnancy scanning it was estimated that they could expect to get in the vicinity of 125 per cent of those lambs survive and listed at marking.

Professor Allworth said another big variable that needed to be taken into account was the weather conditions during lambing.

"If it is reasonably mild and not windy we will get higher survival rates," he said.

Professor Allworth said at this point in the season, the pregnancy scanning results were in, genetic decisions had been made, and now the emphasis was on management.