THE WA Department of Agriculture has found regular pregnancy scanning of ewes equips farmers to tailor their husbandry standards resulting in increased lambing rates.
The scanning procedure identifies ewes that are wet/dry (barren) or twin bearing and better to plan their flock sizes and costs for feeding and rearing.
Research carried out by Sheep CRC shows a significant benefit when scanning for dry ewes and multiples. Culling dry ewes from the flock saves food costs and genetically, wet ewes are more likely to give birth to lamb-producing daughters. This increases the total value of the procedure.
Hypothermia and exposure can be detrimental to lambs; especially multiples. When feed and shelter are inadequate mothers may reject their young.
Scanning helps farmers to better prepare for a plentiful supply of feed and shelter and to ensure lambs are suckling well. Such farm management techniques allow the farmer to successfully plan for the market and boost their profits.
The Department of Agriculture and Food report that after the ‘Lifetime Ewe Management Training Program’—which also involved Sheep CRC) farmers who adopted scanning and separate management of twinning ewes—had an increase in lamb marking of between 12–15 per cent.
According to Development Officer, Mandy Curnow “every increase in lambing percentage will be rewarded this season for both wool and meat producers.” Thus, modern scanning techniques have already shown successful increases and are expected to rise further. However, at the moment there are costs involved and not enough scanning contractors around.
According to experienced Ravensthorpe farmer, Mr Brett Lyall: “logistics such as time and money are involved but like most technologies, costs will reduce over time and then farmers or groups of farmers will own their own scans.”
He predicts that smaller farms would continue using contractors but larger farms would be more inclined to either purchase their own or join a syndicate. This would allow farmers to readily scan their own flocks at a time most suitable to themselves; thus optimising time and costs and ultimately lamb survival rates for meat/wool production.
Mr Lyall also says, “scanning allowed for a shorter cycle as the farmer can quickly remove dry ewes to sell and put their time and money into lamb producing ewes.”
The scan results will allow farmers to predict flock sizes in order to correlate with market demands.
For further information on ewe pregnancy scanning and management see www.sheepcrc.org.