Ewe time forums help producers get more from their flock

Timely forum: Two fo the forums speakers Livestock consultant Hamish Dickson and Ben Swain from BCS Agribusiness. Photo: Taylor Jurd
Timely forum: Two fo the forums speakers Livestock consultant Hamish Dickson and Ben Swain from BCS Agribusiness. Photo: Taylor Jurd

Helping western NSW sheep producers get more from their flock was the aim of a recent ewe forum held throughout the state.

The forums, which are a joint initiative by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), aim is to deliver practical tools and information to help producers improve productivity and profitability.

So far forums have been held in Cooma, Gunning Dubbo and Walgett, with Queensland now set to host.

Expert sheep speakers delivered a range of topics.

Livestock consultant Hamish Dickson spoke about managing ewes in dry times.

Originally from Canowindra and now living in South Australia for work, Hamish looked at identifying animals  that could be sold off.

A range of factors play a part in this including animals that aren’t as productive as others and animals that are potentially dry or haven't reared a lamb.

“Conditions are so tight at the moment and with market prices where they are, it’s still profitable to be feeding stock but you don’t want to be having to feed animals that aren’t productive in the system,” he said.

“So you’ve got to be able to identify those and get them out.”

Hamish also spoke about nutrition requirements of ewes through different stages of pregnancy and lactation.

“I think one of the important points we were talking about is with ewes, two-thirds of the energy requirement they have goes to maintenance of their own body, the rest used for production,” he said.

One of the hottest producers wanted to know about was containment feeding, Hamish said.

“Rather than just supp feeding stock out in the paddock, it’s how they can do it in containment areas 

“Lots of producers are interested in how to set up the containment area, how to manage the feeding… the design of feed access.”

Another speaker was Gunnedah cattle and sheep producer Ben Swain who is an agriculture consultant at BCS Agribusiness.

Mr Swain spoke about measuring individual animals which involves managing sheep flock as individuals and not as a mob.

“We need to be able measure individual traits for animals to know which ones are the ones we want to breed from or in times like this when it’s dry and awful which ones to keep and worth feeding,” he said.

Technology helps identify those performers in the flock producers need to focus on, Mr Swain said.

While the sheep business is good, costs were going up.

“So while we focus on our revenue side, the costs to achieve it have gone up so well need to continually focus on our return on that investment,” Mr Swain said.

“It’s probably even more the case now that we need to be managing those top animals and getting rid of the bottom ones.”

Mr Swain said the top 20 per cent farmers are making every road a winner.

“They’re doing everything well. And while any of those things by themselves probably don’t make a top 20 per cent farmer, when done collectively that’s the difference,” he said.

“You can spend all the money in the world on the right genetics… but if you don’t manage those sheep properly or select the progeny of those sheep as the performers, you’re not going to get any benefits….

“And the opposite is true, you can do all the management stuff right and know every individual sheep, but if the right genetics aren’t coming into the business well… you’ll go backwards”