Economics of Autumn saving

Andrew Whale discusses the value of conserving feed post the autumn break.

Andrew Whale: Just to give everyone a bit of a background for this, three years ago, myself and Bindi Hunter, who is a departmental staff member at Warrnambool took on this producer demonstration side, so funded by MLA and DPI, with my GlenThomson Best Wool Bestlamb Group.

Andrew Whale: I guess what we wanted to focus on is the value of conserving feed the autumn break, so just want to get that clear that this is not looking at confinement feeding in a drought, it's actually an annual programme of the day we get the autumn break, making sheep or keeping sheep off those pastures so that we get a good bank of feed heading into winter, what's the cost of doing that in terms of feeding sheep, and then what are benefits out the other side.

Andrew Whale: With me today is... [inaudible 00:00:54] done with that, there we go... is Darren Sherman standing here. Darren is a producer that's taken onboard, I guess autumn saving for about 10 years, so I guess I'm going to present the data from our trial work, Darren's going to talk about the pros and cons of autumn saving, and I think we'll try and leave a reasonable amount of time for questions, because I think the way that you attack that autumn saving and the confinement feeding is what's really critical. It's all good and well showing you there's money to be made in it, but if you get it wrong, it can be a disaster in terms of stock management.

Andrew Whale: Yeah, I guess I've given a little bit of a description of this, but what is autumn savings? It's keeping stock off pastures after the autumn break. I guess we set desirable food levels depending on the three farms that we worked at. I probably didn't explain that, but over the three years, we worked with three different producers. They had varying stocking rates, all lamb at the same time of year, but some of them were Merinos and some of them were composite breeders.

Andrew Whale: The aims of the demo were to measure the production benefits from meeting pasture targets for our animals over winter, so ensuring that we're hitting our 1400 kilos for twin-bearing ewes during that lambing period. All of these producers were July lambers, so 1st of July, we wanted to make sure that we had that feed.

Andrew Whale: We wanted to compare the confinement feeding for autumn savings to the paddock feeding, so the costs of that. We tried to work out which years it is going to be profitable and how much additional feed we grow as a result of ensuring that we've got those solar panels up. We've got our grass in the middle of the winter and we're able to grow grass as opposed to having it nipped off like this.

Andrew Whale: Which another thing I do want to put into context here, this is very southwest Victorian focused I guess, be we have a very reliable autumn break. Not necessarily the timing of it, but we always have moisture in winter and for those in the northern state, I'm not going to pretend to say that this is something that you could have used to give you benefit over the last couple of years, because if you don't get rain, you don't get the opportunity to grow that grass obviously.

Andrew Whale: This is the timeline of it, so the July lambing, obviously February joining, scanning, so typically late April, and we would manage them out into the paddock, all the sheep together, soon as we got what we called the autumn break rain, so we're looking for an inch rainfall. That's when we would bring them in to confinement, half the mob, and the other half would stay out and be managed in the paddock. Managed to try and get a similar condition score profile in both mobs of sheep, and I'll show you later that that wasn't always achieved, and I guess predominantly because when we get wet down in southwest Victoria, it's hard to keep those sheep really happy in that in confinement environment.

Andrew Whale: To determine the amount of feed that we wanted on these farms prior to letting us confinement sheep out, we had to look at a few factors, and these are all pretty self-explanatory, but stocking rate, sheep size, scanning rate, pasture growth rate, so we were expecting throughout winter, and that's obviously dependent on soil fertility, temperatures and the pasture species.

Andrew Whale: Why do I think autumn saving works really well? These are the pastures from space growth rates for Southern Grampians, and you can see the huge amount of variability... is that a word? Yeah. In the spring and in the autumn time, but our winters are so predictable in terms of growth rates. Yes, we have winters that might have 20% less growth rate, but when we're talking about 15, 16 kilo of growth a day in a pasture, and we drop that 20 kilos, the two to three kilos is not really that significant a difference in comparison to the huge variations we get in autumn. We get a good autumn break and we'll grow two tonne of more feed prior to winter. If we can get our targets right for the farmer, we can have really good confidence that those sheep aren't going to be short on feed for that whole winter period.

Andrew Whale: These are pastures from space calculations, which I believe they underestimate what you're good pastures will be doing, so it got there in the middle of winter, around that 10 kilos per hectare per day in southwest Victoria, and I was going to talk to Darren about it earlier, but I failed to, but his farm, I know what his stocking rate is, and he would typically, I reckon, be going about 20 to 25 kilos per hectare per day over the middle of the winter.

Andrew Whale: Right, so don't take too much notice of this, but I guess this was just an example of how we worked it out for each farmer. I know there's a fair bit of data here, but eight ewes to the hectare, 70 kilo ewes, so we essentially said that they're 40% more than a dry wether, they're 1.4 DSEs when they're dry. Carrying twins, so then we multiplied it again by 2.5. as a group of sheep, they are going to consume 24 kilos, 24 and a half kilos per hectare per day. If we put in that we estimated pasture to grow at 20 kilos, that gives us a deficit of four and a half for every day. We were looking at 80 days from the time they go into the paddock pre-lambing, until we knew that pastures were going to be growing away from them.

Andrew Whale: 80 days at four and a half kilos a day, essentially a deficit of 336 kilos, I know that's a lot of numbers, but we set a target, we never wanted it below 1200, so therefor we were working on 1536 kilos, not that we're that exact when we do our estimations, but essentially we wanted over 1500 kilos for that example, to ensure that animals had good nutritional levels for that whole lambing.

Andrew Whale: I just wanted to give you another example, and I think the reason I've used this is because if you've got a low stocking rate, you can leave the tent, because autumn saving's not for you because you're going to grow the grass you need anyway. There's no point growing extra grass and not utilising it because it's a bloody expensive way to do things, and I'll show you on one of these farms, that's what happened one year.

Andrew Whale: Five ewes to the hectare, same size sheep, two and a half ewes to the hectare, they're actually not eating as much as what it's growing. It's just going to continue to get ahead of those sheep over the winter period.

Andrew Whale: I guess they're the calculations we used, and then I won't take you through each farm scenario, but in 2016 we wanted 1200 kilos to the hectare, in 2017 we wanted 1550, and in 2018 we wanted 1250. That's what we wanted prior to letting these sheep out to give us confidence for the winter. Just first two years were composites, the final year was a Merino operation. They were still joined to a terminal ram though.

Andrew Whale: Just to paint you a picture of the years, this is 2016, so it was probably a wet May, but it was probably the most average year that we had, I would say, out of the three years. Some rain, March, April, to get things germinated and started, but we didn't get a really proper rain until May, then it was quite May. Ended up being a very wet spring, but we're not looking at spring with this trial.

Andrew Whale: 2017 was like a thumper of a year. Robin Jackson, I was hoping he might be here, but he's not here today, who's an elderly farmer, a really great guy down at Hamilton, and he says it's the best year he's ever seen. Not sure how old Robin would be, but I think he'd have to be north of 70 I think. Just to give you some idea on how good a year that was, it was a ripper, and in 2018, I actually don't have the last part of the rainfall there, but it's again, it's not part of the trial. We had some sort of, a bit like the first year, we had rain just to get things germinated, and then the break came in May, really early in May, and got things really thumping along.

Andrew Whale: I guess subjectively I'd say that it was a fairly average autumn break in 2016. 2017, as good as it gets, and 2018, we had germinating rains and then a really good break. We actually had really good feed levels quite early. It was probably like a 70 percentile year I guess, if you were going to rank that last year.

Andrew Whale: Actually I think it's a really good year to be talking about this because we're all pretty tight for feed down at Hamilton, and you can see it would have been the best year to run the demo because we have had a later break, and unfortunately we didn't get a later break in any of those years.

Andrew Whale: This is the cost of containment, so we have our target food. The grain price has obviously varied year-on-year, so we were $270 a tonne, $145 a tonne, and then $290 a tonne. Again, it'd be great to have that this year at $400. Our target food, this is the days it took locked up. It was probably a lot less than what probably I think a lot of people would think, that in 30 days we were able to grow, on a average 30 days really, we were able to grow that 12 to 1400 kilos. Yeah can actually see what we achieved. We actually got a lot more than what we wanted on a couple of occasions, and that was probably with the timing of the demo.

Andrew Whale: We were working on monthly visits, and so because we're not out there every day, the way a farmer would be, we didn't pull the trigger on letting these sheep out of confinement. There's probably a really valuable lesson there, if we are to do all this again, we'd be out there every week, ensuring that we're letting them out when they needed it, or we would have just said to the farmer, "Look, when you think you've got 1400, let's let them out and we'll come out and do some measurements on those days."

Andrew Whale: The cost obviously varies there quite a bit, from $7 a ewe down to $4.40. Costing per hectare, and this is the cost of a tonne of additional grass, which I'll talk about in more detail. But when you look at current prices of $400 a tonne for grain, and you look at we're growing grass in some of those ewes for $30, it's a bloody cheap way to give yourself extra feed in the middle of winter.

Andrew Whale: I guess these images are probably what people think about, is this is the ability to give our sheep here 1400 kilos at lambing, as opposed to probably that more traditional method of allowing the grass to grow up through the sheep. It just doesn't get there at a reasonable stocking rate situation until August, September, which is the ewe is well past her peak demands. That's 10 weeks after lambing in these July lambing systems. You can see the, I guess Darren will talk about this later, but the comfort factor as a livestock manager, knowing that those sheep have got that level of feed at that critical time.

Andrew Whale: That's 2016. That was the difference at lambing time. I reckon this pasture on the left looks really good, but when you look at the MLA ruler here, you actually can appreciate how short that feed is. On first glance, I'd look at that and go, "Well there's 1300 kilos," but it's actually not very high at all. It's only hitting that two centimetres on that ruler. They were all cut and they're actual cuts, they're not just an estimation that someone's done.

Andrew Whale: 2017, so this is the ripping year. You can see how feed we ended up in the deferred paddocks, so we're up over two tonne. We still got to 12, 1300 kilos at lambing time in the set stock paddock, and when I show you the data, this is really important to remember because we actually had really good results in these sheep that weren't locked up. That's because the pasture grew so well because it was such a good year.

Andrew Whale: In 2018, a similar result. we actually let them out at a great time I think, but the producers went and whacked 100 kilos of urea across the whole farm, so what that actually meant was, and we hadn't accounted for that in our growth rates of the pastures, but they were getting a bit worried about not growing enough grass, so what it essentially did was probably give us an extra 500 kilos across both the set stocked and the deferred, which then put the deferred paddock over two tonnes.

Andrew Whale: The quality of that feed was pretty ordinary and our pasture test showed that. There actually wasn't much legume in that paddock because the grass has just overshadowed everything. The set stock mobs were sitting around the 14, 1500 kilos, which we'll actually show, the growth rates were better in those sheep, but if you look at the pastures which are here, this is what the... Does this make you a bit jealous ?

Audience: A little.

Andrew Whale: A little? That was the set stock mob, so that's a cracking pasture. There's obviously no sign of those sheep going to be short on nutrition with the quality of feed that they had. Yeah, there still looks like there's a fair bit of clover there, but later in the spring, that clover was pretty hard to find on those paddocks.

Andrew Whale: Condition score, so you can see here, this happened every year. We scanned, we let the animals out on short green feed, they put on a heap of weight, the ones that were locked up dropped weight. They lambed, the ones that had good feed put on weight, the ones that were on the set stocked environment, they started to work off that weight. You essentially had this big change here pre-lambing, but most of the time it ended up reasonably similar in terms of the condition score of the animals at the end of the year it was every year it was slightly improved in the ones that were locked up in confinement.

Andrew Whale: That's an example. 11th of May, so that would have been probably three or four weeks, so I think they were just about to come out of confinement this time. That was pretty typical of what was happening, so we had sheep on short green feed that they were putting on weight on, which composites amazingly put very good weight on, on very small amount of feed on offer, so they only had three, 400 kilos of food on offer in those paddocks, and they were all putting on weight, but it was quite high. It wasn't like your three or 400 that's this much across the whole paddock, it was those perennial pastures that probably only had 20 or 30% ground cover, but where there was grass it was three to four centimetres high, so it was very available.

Andrew Whale: You can see there, the deferred mob. Now that sheep shouldn't be in there, that's actually a ewe lamb, but you can see the difference in condition score inline with those condition score profiles that I showed you there.

Andrew Whale: I guess this is just the image because there, that's the different in sheep, but that's the difference in the feed on offer and what we were able to supply those sheep. Those skinnier ewes can handle this feed on offer, or they need that feed on offer, but the fact they're going out onto such good quality, the results were quite good.

Andrew Whale: 2017, similar results. The ones we let out got fat, the other ones dropped a little bit of weight, but then as soon as they went out they caught up a little bit, and you can see after lamb marking, they really stacked on the kilos because they had more feed.

Andrew Whale: That's the second year sheep, so not as dramatic the condition score change in those, but I still think you can appreciate there's a little bit of a condition score difference in those. 2018, very repeatable these results. We didn't catch up with the condition score, and I think that's largely because of the difference in that feed quality that I spoke about before.

Andrew Whale: The learnings. Every year there was weight loss in confinement, so I think this is something that we just need to really make sure we're getting right. I reckon we had really good nutritional plans in place, but what happened was once it got wet, and the Merinos were the worst at this, the amount of grain that we were wasting. We were feeding them adequate levels, but the producers estimated they were probably losing 30 to 40% of the grain, it was just getting walked into the ground in the muddy conditions.

Andrew Whale: There's really some significant challenges with confinement, and in every one of these situations, we were doing heavy confinement, the three square metres per ewe probably environment, so in a pen like this, you're probably running 100 ewes. I guess some people are going to run even a little bit, and Darren's probably an example of that, where he's using the three or four hectares for 100 ewes, as opposed to the 100 metre by 100 metre pen. The confinement ewes picked up condition significantly from lambing to lamb marking, which is telling us that they're getting that energy at a the critical time.

Andrew Whale: Lamb weaning weights, so first year we got a substantial improvement in the confinement sheep. These aren't actually weaning weights, they were taken at time when the producers needed to box them up, so they was often an eight week... eldest lambs were about eight or 10 weeks, and it varied from farm to farm. But it was probably a month before their traditional weaning time, that's why they're probably lighter than what our people would like.

Andrew Whale: We got a 2.1 kilo improvement in the first year, we got a one and a half kilo improvement in the weaning weights in the second yeah, the third year we didn't. I think that's really explainable by the fact that our feed on offer levels in the set stock mob were the optimum as opposed to the confinement. The confinement were rank, and so I guess in hindsight you say, "We got it wrong, you should never have allowed that pasture to as advanced as what you did," and I think that's fair, except the urea application essentially whacked an extra 500 kilos across of pasture available to those sheep.

Andrew Whale: Weaning weights, so the first year we got a really good improvement. 7% improvement in weaning weights. Second year we had a reduction in weaning weight, and we really had no idea why this is. The producer feels like there was not many dead lambs in the paddock, so essentially he had 400 ewes in this, and each of them had 400 ewes, so there would had been two mobs of 200 for each trial, and we're talking eight hectare paddocks. It would have been pretty easy for him to see what should have been a pretty large increase in foetuses, and he feels like they just didn't lamb. What we're questioning in this is potential abortion storm, which is actually great to see this because it is one of the big risks of confinement feeding, because you're bringing all your sheep together and it's where we probably do our most... I didn't actually say this myself, I'm actually a vet, and it's probably where we do the largest amount of abortion investigations, in sheep in confinement.

Andrew Whale: Because you've got all these animals together in an environment, if there's a disease that goes through them, they spread it really well, and Campylobacter is spread via faecal-oral route between animals, so once you've got an aborted foetus, they actually pick it up, they'll spread it between each other, and obviously they're eating on the ground, so they're more likely to be picking it up. We suspect something like that has happened.

Andrew Whale: In 2018, we again had a reduction in lamb survival, and probably we put that down to the change in condition score. The ewes that were in confinement weren't in good enough condition when they came out, and that's partly the conditions, and I think that's a bit of a reality of what we have to deal with, we confinement, and I think it's one of the challenges.

Andrew Whale: I guess the other thing about lamb survival is, and we've all seen it, you go and put five mobs of sheep out in lambing paddocks and you think they're all under similar conditions, you go in to marking and you'll get 120%, 140, 120. This is not set up to be a gold standard trial, it's just to produce a demonstration site, so those results will be, I guess, reflective of not animals to give us real good confidence in the lamb survival results.

Andrew Whale: I guess at the end of the day, we want kilogrammes of live weight off these ewes, so year one, we got a 4.1 kilo improvement, year two, because of the much reduced lamb survival, we were 2.2 kilo loss, and in 2018, because we had less lambs and they were lighter, we had a 3.9 kilo difference, and in the negative. Look, I guess a lot of this just comes down to that confinement management, as well as we've got to remember those ewes, the second year was a cracking year, and you would never have confined in that year because you just didn't need to with 200 mils of rain in March and April.

Andrew Whale: Profit margins, so dollars per ewe, dollars per hectare. Essentially a $41 improvement year one, $26 loss year two, and a big loss on year three.i guess I think this helps us show the yes, there's value in confinement feeding, but yes, you've got to do it well, and there's years where you've got to make sure that you let them out in time so that you're not growing additional grass without utilising it.

Andrew Whale: Across the three years, I guess this just paints a really good picture of what we've been able to, I don't know, show what happened. We know we can get more feed on offer when we need it, through confinement. We know that they'll be short of feed, and I guess we got that one year where this set stock mob had a large amount, so I feel like that's probably 30% higher than what it should be. The ewe condition score, so yes, ewes are lighter, slightly lighter at pre-lambing, as opposed to these ewes that have put on weight post-scanning and then lost weight from lambing through the lamb marking.

Andrew Whale: Back to the costs of growing our additional grass, and I guess I think this is what is the most exciting thing about the demo that we did. Year one, it cost us $69 for every additional tonne of dry matter. Year two, it was only $29 because that was, I think $150 for grain that year, so it was a very cheap year to have sheep locked up, year three, $47 for that additional tonne. We're averaging across at $48 for every tonne of additional grass across the farm, heading into that period of winter where we're wanting to maximise stocking rates so we can utilise the spring, but knowing that our winter pasture production is at its slowest point of the growing season.

Andrew Whale: Comparing this to urea. Average cost is $48 a tonne, ranging from 30 to 70, and the growing cost were 150 to 300. I guess if we had a crack at what it's like with the cost this year, it would have been about $90 per tonne of green grass. Urea, so for $540 a tonne, and we're getting a 12 to one response, which I think is probably a fair average to work on in the autumn period, the cost of growing that additional grass is $110 per tonne. I guess when a lot of us are using urea and really happy to do urea at these sums, it makes this autumn savings look really cheap when you're doing it at, well in a best case scenario, a third of the price, and the worst case scenario, it's getting close to one to one, but we're averaging about half the cost of urea. Which I think is really exciting for people.

Andrew Whale: I guess what we would have loved to do with this demo is actually not focus on the per head production changes, but the ability to put an extra three ewes into each of those lambing paddocks, because we had an extra six or 700 kilos of feed on offer. In hindsight, that's actually what we would have done.

Andrew Whale: Key messages from me, containment feeding requires specific management. Autumn saving ensured that we had food targets, and Darren's going to talk about that a little bit more. The deferred group had the required food available when they needed it, from late pregnancy through to weaning.

Andrew Whale: I'm going to throw it Darren to talk a little bit more about why he like the practise, the pros and cons.

Darren: Thank you Andrew. We farm 10 minutes out of Hamilton, towards Dunkeld. We currently have a flock of four and a half thousand composite ewes. 10 years ago we had a late break, it was, I think from memory, about the 16th of May, and we were feeding lambing ewes and running over lambs, and I vowed and declared that there's got to be a better way.

Darren: We shifted our lambing to a mid-June lambing, and set up our containment areas. We initially started with four, now we have eight. They range in size from one and a half hectares to four and a half hectares. They're all within a few hundred metres of the feed source, so I can feed all our stock in probably 25% of the time it takes to feed if they're out of their paddock. From a management point of view, that's, to me, is a huge bonus.

Darren: What we also do in our containment areas is we manage the condition score of our sheep. When we preg test, which is normally late March, we'll put them in their preg statuses, but we'll condition score them. We'll certainly take weight of singles. By doing that, we've turned mid 80%s onto high 90%s quite regularly.

Darren: Also with our composites, they get fat on the sight of food, so we've actually really kept a close eye, we're able to keep a close eye on the condition score of our multiple bearing ewes, and that is reflected hugely in our lambing percentages. We've gone from anywhere from 115, 120, up to regularly 145s and a bit more.

Darren: What it does, I think it puts you in control and it gives you options. It gives you options in a tough year like this. This has probably been the toughest year that I've had to do it in 10 years with containment, but we're still going to get through. We have a short four week joining now, which has given no compromise to our numbers, but we've got options. We have put urea out, we can go in with [inaudible 00:28:56] at the end of lambing. We never, in that 10 years, have been short of feed through lambing.

Darren: We've been able to increase our stocking rate. Quite often our [inaudible 00:29:06] Phalaris [inaudible 00:29:08] pasture base, I think it works particularly well with Phalaris, it gets going early and it's tough, and we've been able to lift our stocking rates up to lambing down 10 ewes to the hectare on good quality Phalaris pastures and doing it easily.

Darren: We feed on the ground, we feed six days a week. They have three feeds of hay, three feeds of barley, but you've also got that option to be flexible. If there's a bad weather event coming, there's one day a week you can miss out, so it gives you options there. If you happen to have an early break, as Andrew said, you can take them out earlier. You can take your multiples out, you can run them across your single paddocks.

Darren: That's a good advantage, you can get them out a bit earlier. This year we kept our ewes in until... the multiples were in seven days, just before they lambed, and we have had no issues whatsoever with putting them back out. Singles, we [inaudible 00:30:04] our singles. We'll keep them in containment until we see the first lamb. It gives us that ability to keep that feed in front of our multiples. They're the ones who are going to earn us the most money, and yeah, it just works well.

Darren: When we preg test, we will do a hay budget, and we just work out what ME can supply each containment pen, and then we just work out the ME difference with the barley. That just increases as they get more and more pregnant.

Darren: As I said, we've never had a problem with the transition going out of containment, but yeah, it just puts you back in charge. You're just not playing Russian roulette with the weather. Yeah, and we've never really missed out, so we're really lucky.

Darren: We certainly haven't had any issues with... We vaccinate with Campyvax anyway, so we've had no issues with any health issues in the containment areas. Infrastructure, those little pens, or they're not little, they're one and a half to four and a half hectares, very handy your crutching, lamb marking, sheering. We've actually got lambs in there, feedlotting lambs in the one and a half hectare ones at the minute. We'll sew them down to a hay crop, so we're getting quite a good utilisation there.

Darren: I think, yeah, by managing the condition of the stock, it's the lambing now, from my management point of view, it's just so much easier. We're not having these big, fat ewes that have got two perfectly good but dead lambs on the ground, they're just lambing so quickly, which I think is pretty critical with the composites, is not to have them too fat. This year we're probably down around three, 3-1 condition score with the composites, and it's the easiest lambing we've ever seen. You've got that ability to do these things and manage them, but if they're out in paddocks, well it's just Russian roulette.

Darren: Grass, as I said, we've never been short of grass since we've been containment feeding. Grass grows more grass, and yeah, you've just got to look after that, those green shoots, and yeah, it'll do the work for you later on.

Darren: Yeah? [inaudible 00:32:33].

Andrew Whale: No, well that's [inaudible 00:32:39]. Thanks Darren. I think we've touched on most of those things, but I can't, and I think Darren's probably done this for 10 years and he's out the other side in terms of his expertise in now managing in confinement, I think he does a bloody good job of it, but I don't want to underestimate the challenges for other people of doing confinement. I guess I think these traps, we do need to be mindful of, so that the people do run into trouble, they stop feeding grain because they're getting bogged, and the amount of hay and grain wastage because it's really wet is a problem, so I think you've got to really pick your sites well.

Andrew Whale: The infrastructure required, there's not much. I was with a client the other day, they spent $15,000 and they've got a confinement set up for about 10,000 sheep, so yes, it's 15 grand, but that's $1.50 a ewe. They've actually been spending that every three or four days to feed sheep at the moment, so in terms of that real cost, it's not a substantial cost for a reasonable size business. Typically in southwest Victoria, we've been doing it quite well over the last little while, and again, this is a southwest Victorian focus.

Andrew Whale: The disease thing, so we do need to think about those diseases, and Campylobacter's the main one. I guess there's others that are problematic, but Campy is the one we can actually prevent with a vaccine, and we probably should be doing that anyway. But it definitely heightens the risk of it.

Andrew Whale: Ensuring that we're not overdoing the confinement, because I feel like there's been almost a bit of a trend down our way, where people, they want to have two and a half tonne of grass, it's a competition, and you see those farms at 1st of September, and they've still got two and a half tonne of grass. You think well you have wasted a bloody lot of money in carrying that large amount of feed throughout the spring, throughout the winter, so it's important that we're not overgrowing grass because, yeah, we saw how expensive it was in that year where those guys essentially put 100 kilos of urea across the farm and wasted every bit of that I would say.

Andrew Whale: I guess is this for you? How do you make it work? I think this, it probably highlights the need for pasture budgeting and for us to be a bit more in-tune with that, and it's a pretty easy process to go through. I think it's something that now's a great time of the year to actually look at how much feed you've got across your farm, go back in three months, well two and a half months time, and see how much you've got, and from there, you can actually work towards... [inaudible 00:35:22]. From there you can actually work towards well, is the 1200 you've got today sufficient for you on your farm, or does it need to be five or 600 kilos more than that, or five or 600 kilos less?

Andrew Whale: I think that whole thing of you can't manage what you don't measure, we often forget how much feed we've got at this time of year, and so there'll be people that are getting really, really nervous because they don't have enough feed, and then in six week's time, they'll be happy, but then next year they'll get to this time and they'll be nervous again. We need to actually start learning what is that requirement that we need? Darren knows what his his, he knows that if he can get to 1500 kilos now, he's happy.

Andrew Whale: We might just throw it over to questions. Yeah?

Audience:           Yeah. Because the ewes were in better condition at marking, did that flow on to be in better condition at following joining? Did you have a flow on impact on pregnancy.

Andrew Whale: We didn't follow them through because we went to a new farm every year.

Audience:           Ah, okay.

Andrew Whale: Yeah. But I guess the condition scores tended to be better. In the first two years, the condition scores were better, and we would expect that to have improved conception. That was actually, I didn't go into it, but we did take that into account with some of the profit margins in terms of what would be the cost to put that weight back on those ewes, or the savings in grain.

Andrew Whale: Yeah?

Audience            [inaudible 00:36:46] worm controllers [inaudible 00:36:48] the same groups?

Andrew Whale: We monitored worm egg counts and we never got a difference, but you would think from having that, and we thought we would, but from having those sheep off those pastures that first 30 days, which starts your lifecycle, yeah, it's an obviously should be improvement. I feel like it's [inaudible 00:37:05], but I feel like we have seen much better worm control, and people are avoiding the need for capsules because they're putting ewes on paddocks on good feed, and they've had four weeks less of a lifecycle, which we know how much that growing season influences worm buildup. We measured it, didn't see a response, but you'd love to measure them the whole year and repeated years to see it.

Andrew Whale: Yeah, Gregg?

Gregg:   If you lambed a little later [inaudible 00:37:34] sheep, would that take that pressure off a little bit [inaudible 00:37:37]?

Andrew Whale: Yeah, absolutely. Yes and no. Because we're looking at the autumn period, you couldn't change the time of year they're in there, but you'd have less stress on the animals because they wouldn't be heavily pregnant. Yeah, an August lamber, you're going to be a lot more comfortable seeing those sheep drop a little bit of condition when they're three months away from lambing, as opposed to being two or one month away.

Andrew Whale: Yeah?

Audience: Do you grow the feed there or is it all brought in?

Andrew Whale: On these farms?

Audience: Yeah.

Andrew Whale: Various. One farm was a cropper, the other two weren't. I think the hay was mostly on farm already, but the grain would have all been brought in on two of the farms, yeah. But we did put on the prices for buying it in rather than the costs on farm for growing it.

Andrew Whale: Yeah, Andrew?

Andrew:  [inaudible 00:38:33] prolapse, did you see any difference?

Andrew Whale: No. No we didn't. Death rates were very similar across both mobs, both years. Again, we didn't want to take too much data to that because you lose three in one mob and one in the other, across 200 ewes, it doesn't give you a lot of power in those mortality rates. But no, we didn't, but we put that down to fat sheep, so you're controlling conditions scored better in that confinement setting.

Audience: What was the time [inaudible 00:39:07]? [inaudible 00:39:07] or...

Andrew Whale: No. Soon as we had that autumn break, we put them in. When we had confidence that that was a solid break, like an inch of rain, in generally that late April, early May period was the time they went into confinement.

Audience: When were they shorn and what impact on fibre strength?

Andrew Whale: Yeah, we didn't look at that. I guess yeah, really good question, because I think merinos that have got six months wool that go out on the green pasture, that's where you get your break from is that sudden feed change. I think it's something that, again, when you start looking at this as an annual approach, you want to make sure that you don't have ewes, you want to make sure you use it within two months of sheering, around that autumn break. Which people need to think about that anyway because it is the time where we get our biggest tenderness in the wool, but that definitely increases the risks for sure. But we didn't measure it.

Andrew Whale: There was two questions, there was the strength and... oh, when were they shorn? Look, I can the remember, but they were all pretty short wooled when they were in confinement, just from those photos.

Andrew Whale: Is there another question? Yeah?

Audience: Yeah, the last question.

Andrew Whale: Go for it.

Audience: You've got a few different stocking rates in confinement, what would you recommend?

Darren: Obviously your multiples are the ones you've really got to look after, they'll go into bigger pens. This year we had 1300 [inaudible 00:40:37]. They would be bigger, they would be better. The multiples certainly [inaudible 00:40:40]. Depends on the, I guess, with the typography is how heavy you can stock them, but-

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Page last updated: 02 Jun 2021