2018 conference presentations
Recovery from natural disaster
Troy and Nette Fisher discuss the loss of stock and pastures in a devastating bushfire and their subsequent recovery and rebuild.
Barber's pole worm – Learnings from the New England
Lewis Kahn, from UNE Armidale, outlines the lifecycle of Barbers Pole worm and control practices to manage this parasite that has been increasing its presence in Victoria recently.
- - [Lewis] I might as well give apologies at the start, because as you may hear, I'm gonna be moving along at a reasonably cracking pace, because to talk about barber's pole and learnings, I sort of interpreted that as control methods, and so I'm gonna skim across some stuff and spend more time with others. So if there are parts where I'm sort of leaving you behind or not making sense, I'm very happy for you to pull me up and sort of realign the talk as we go along. So I'd rather crack on, rather than take out more time. I think, particularly for Victoria, the thing with barber's pole is it's not about production loss from some clinical effects. It's about blood loss leading to bottle jaw, yeah, so the proteins have come out of the vessels, there's not enough protein to hold the water in the vessels, the water comes out, the sheep graze with their head down, so it accumulates below the chin, and this submandibular oedema. Lethargy, because they don't have enough red cells because the body's run out of iron, and death. Death is the key point with barber's pole, and when you've got clinical texts like that, then you know it's the classic tip of the iceberg, and so it's too late. And so one of those issues, as always, is if we manage on visual signs, particularly with parasites, it's way too late. And so you know, a severe infection can pull out a quarter a litre of blood from a sheep in one day, and it will do its best to start to make that blood up, through red blood cell production, but over time, and over the season, as this cracks on and on and on, they run out of iron, lose that potential to create blood, and you get mortality, and so those figures up there are certainly not extreme, that people may lose 10 percent of young stock in an outbreak of Haemonchus. So, warm temperatures, moist conditions, moves very quickly, which I'll talk about, and maybe across the flock, that might be six percent. And they're not the upper extremes of what a disaster could be. As I said, the barber's pole doesn't affect intake like scour worms, so I'm gonna use the word scour worm to refer to black scour worm and brown stomach worm. It just makes it quicker to say. And they have an effect by reducing food intake. Barber's pole doesn't do that nearly as reliably, so it's different. The key point with barber's pole is death. So it's an easy endpoint to identify. The other point for barber's pole as different than scour worms is they're fecund. So a female is gonna pop out maybe five to 10,000 eggs, per day, and so that's, you know, that's an urban maze, where they're dwelling, in the fourth stomach on the left-hand side, littered with barber's pole. They are two to three centimetres long, they look red and white because what you've got here is basically the blood-filled gut going around the egg-filled uterus, which gives that appearance. And in relation to the other worms that you're familiar with, black scour and brown stomach, look at the fecundity there. So we're talking about a scour, some 30 times, in terms of fecundity, and the impact of barber's pole then is down at the bottom, that it doesn't muck about. There's a potential for an increase of L3, so L3, the infective stages, of pasture very quickly. And that's what catches people out, and so even when you're living in endemic area like Armidale or northern New South Wales, where we expect it, every month of the year, all the time, even then it's difficult to sometimes be able to catch some of those issues. And that's because some of the blood loss happens before egg production happens, so once a worm establishes, it's only got to get to about six days of age before it's starting to suck blood, but it's not until at least 18 or 21 days it's starting to lay eggs, and so the parasite can cause problems in a quick manner. So a quick refresher, because I'm gonna rely on some of this stuff as we crack on, that what we've got up in the top there are really the adults, reside in the sheep, they basically reach sexual maturity and they lay eggs that come out in the faeces. Those eggs require temperature and rainfall, and we'll talk briefly about that, to become these third-stage infective larvae. Another difference: barber's pole, they immediately leave the pellet. Scour worms can stay in the pellet for much longer periods of time, so they can then withstand those sorts of seasonal variability that's going to come on. The infective larvae then are also in soil and pasture and they get eaten by the animal, and those infection rates could be maybe 50 to 60 percent of the larvae that they consume establish to become adults, where they're fully vulnerable, and that might rack down to 10 percent over time, but let's not forget this graph over there, which is where are most of the larvae? In that sward, and see the bit going below ground level? And we'll come back to that; a lot of larvae are in the soil, and they'll come out of the soil, up into the base of pasture, so when people think, for instance, that this is a tropical parasite, so if I get frost, that's bound to deal with it. Well, most of them are in an area which doesn't necessarily frost. Okay, so if that's the background, then I wanna now cover off quickly some key facts about the development of barber's pole, and I wanna cover that because these are the things that control programmes are based on. Basically targeting the weak points of barber's pole, in its lifecycle, and so the first is there, that barber's pole won't develop from egg to infective larvae until the daily maximum temperature is above 16 to 18 degrees C, much higher than for your black scour or for your brown stomach, so you know, it represents where it comes from. It, as the temperature rises, the number of days to go from the egg to the infective larval stage also reduces, so in summer it might be four to six days, four to five days, to go from egg to larvae. In winter, it can't be winter, because it's got to be above 16 to 18, but at temperatures just above that, it might crack out to nine or 10 days. As temperature goes up, then, the larvae that are on the pasture, they die more quickly, because they're wrapped in a sheath, they're no longer feeding, so that's it. So basically, they fattened up and they're waiting to be consumed, so those reserves don't last forever. And so, the higher the temperature, the quicker they die. And so what I've got there is that maybe 50 percent of those larvae that are on pasture might die within 20 to 40 days, at high temperatures. If they had high temperatures to, er, higher temperatures to lower temperatures, then it might take 60 to 120 days to get 90 percent dying. And I'll give you an example, but, so this is, ah, I don't have a point there, so these are days of survival. But let me just say you put 100 infective larvae on a pasture on day one, and then the daily maximum temperatures, that's all I'm talking about, daily maximum temperatures, so we don't have to calculate means or look at means, it's the maximum temperature. And you can see that as you go from the right side, the orange, to the left side, the blue, the temperatures are hotter, and they die more quickly. So if you look at: how long does it take for 50 percent of them to die? You can see that at maximum temperatures, at 30 degrees, it's about 20 days. And if we then ask the next question: well, how long does it take for 90 percent of them to die? Then it's going to be somewhere between 60 and 120 days, and so forth. And these are pretty reliable, these death rate curves, and they go across all sorts of different infective larvae that are affected by temperature and relative humidity. So, if we know that temperature controls development, and controls death rate and how quickly the eggs go to infective larvae, the only other thing that controls development is moisture, and that comes from rainfall and soil moisture, and we shouldn't forget wet soils. And so a lot of the research that was done here ignored soil moisture for a while, and we know that if it got wet soils, without rainfall, barber's pole eggs can develop to infective larvae. If you've got dry soil, no rainfall, they will not develop. And so it's a combination of both of those, and so I've written here that for moisture, more is generally better, but we're not talking about flooding situations; so they need moisture. The next two points are the most important there, that it's the balance of rainfall and evaporation. It's just like plant growth, really, so the higher the evaporation rates, the more rainfall is required to increase the faecal moisture content to a point where you get higher development rates. And the third one, which is unique to barber's pole, that if the rainfall or the moisture doesn't come within four or five days of deposition, they don't develop. So we get to day nine and it hasn't rained, and you get two inches of rain, they virtually won't develop. So when I say won't develop, you know, we're not at zero out of 100, but we're talking about only very, very small numbers. Which is, again, very different to the situation with the other parasites. So they're fecund, they produce a lot of eggs, they move very quickly, but they've got quite a fragile lifecycle, and that's why some of these strategies that we'll talk about later on, like grazing management, work well against barber's pole, but not so well against the other parasites. So, I'm gonna cover off on those four areas, in terms of learnings from the new England. I'm gonna skate very quickly across genetics, because I was Lou Hogan's talk, and most people put their hand up that they select animals on ASBVs, grazing management, vaccination, and forecasts. So we don't wanna be caught out in terms of when the next challenge is coming. And it, and I just wanna put forward, you know, the view here that it's possible to have more than one good idea at once. Even for a bloke. And so, you know, we tend to fall into camps, don't we? I'm a genetic person, or aperson, why can't we be all of those? You know, we don't have to be ascribed to one particular philosophy, so for goodness sake, buy rams with negative ASBVs for worm egg count. You gotta satisfy your other production traits, but just make sure they've got negative. We've heard from Lou, the average for Merino's are, the average cross-check at the moment is minus 15. It's already gone down 15 percent since 1990, so just make sure they're below that. And basically get on with it there afterwards. Because the impact in terms of worm egg count, the progeny, now from some of the more and least resistant sires that are on either the Merino or the maternal, or the terminal size could be as large as 40 to 50 percent. So basically, I sort of see that as, you know, you put your shirt on, now you're ready for the day. There's another point, though, and this is some work that we did some time ago where we had either ewes, Merino ewes that had been selected to be very resistant to barber's pole, or that hadn't been selected at all. So they're the control, not selected, and the orange is resistant. We put tracer sheep, so they're young sheep, naive to parasites, and we graze them, and they pick up those parasites and we use worm egg count to reflect how infective those paddocks were. Those paddocks have been grazed over lambing, so about a four month period by those resistant and control. And I think I've got it in red here, but if we look at barber's pole, the tracers that went on the paddocks where the control sheep were, they had a worm egg count of nearly a thousand, versus down, and that was in four months. So it's not just about low worm egg count, but the whole cycle starts to drive down, in terms of a lower deposition of eggs on departure, less challenge. And of course, the good thing with worm egg count, there's only one trade: ASBV for weight. Because you select against, for instance, low worm egg count in the new England will give exactly the same value against scour worms here, and vice-versa; there's no differences in that regard. So, basically we've got our shirt on, so we've got genetics under control. The next point then is where it gets more complicated, in terms of how do we use grazing to better manage against barber's pole? And really there's only two principles. And the first one there is that we wanna minimise infection from larvae on the pasture, and I'll explain that, and the other is we just wanna get the level of contamination down. That's all we wanna do with grazing management. And we're gonna do that by either using any of those, any of those practises, and so, why would I wanna have a short graze period? Well, if I know it takes, in summer, say, five days to go from an egg to an infective larvae, and I didn't want those sheep to get infected, from the larvae that developed from the eggs that they deposited, if I move them under five days, that's not gonna happen. So I understand how long it takes to go from egg to L3, and if I move them before that period of time has elapsed, they can't get auto-infected from the larvae that have developed from their own droppings. I want a longer period between sheep grazing, because we saw the death rate; L3 can't feed. So, the more I can do that, the more I start to drive down the level of barber's pole on the paddock. And I can, we can talk about smart grazing, too. I mean, it was developed down here, and basically taken up into the new England and looked at it, and then repackaged, and that's what I was asked here, to talk about some of the things we do that you might be able to repackage to make it sit into your production systems, and finally: how do we use climate? And I'll give you some examples of the effectiveness. So this is, these are worm egg counts taken from Moreno lambs at weaning, that hadn't been drenched, that had either been run in the blue in a sit-stock situation, at eight ewes to the hectare, or under a rotation that had those short graze period, long rest periods, and these are basically all barber's pole, and you can see it was pretty dramatic. In terms of weaners that came out of rotation had very low worm egg counts compared to those that were set-stock. Over the next year, we'll also address the issue of, you know, if you increase stocking rate to 12 ewes per hectare, of course, you increase worm egg counts, don't you? Well of course, that's not the case, because it's a balance of how much grass you grow, and how many eggs get deposited onto the pasture. And so you can see here, Merino lamb's been weaned at 12,000. Who thinks there's dead sheep? There was a lot of dead sheep. So a big cut, Merino lamb's being weaned at two to three thousand, there's no dead sheep at those levels. So we know in our hands, grazing management is a really powerful tool, but it's a fiddle. It's not as easy as genetics, and you've gotta get organised and you've gotta do some, some planning. If we look at another example there, in terms of, so that example was from either TechnoGraze Systems, so small models, tiny paddocks, high stock density, this is, these are from a CellGraze system that Allison Colvin had done, at the CSRO up at Armidale, over a couple of years, looking at again, set stock versus rotation. Where's the big effect? The big effect is on H. contortus, the barber's pole worm, worm egg count. The affect on other species wasn't there at all. And it's barber's pole that's most effected by rotational grazing, not the scour worms. And it's for the reasons that we said before, in terms of they can't stay within the pellet. They've gotta leave the pellet, they gotta develop quickly, all those sorts of things, they're quite fragile. So, that's just about how do you design a grazing management system to do that, and there's all sorts of ways for that to happen. The other is: how do we use climate to our advantage to drive down barber's pole worm levels on pasture? And so in our environment, we lamb in September. Probably not so different, maybe a little bit later. And so we work on the notion that about this point, you identify your lambing paddocks, and for the next two months, we ensure that no sheep worm eggs go on to pasture. So that means maybe sheep aren't on the paddocks, or they've got drenched into the paddocks, grazed for three weeks after a short-acting, maybe they had a long-acting product. They stayed in there for the two months. Maybe you put cattle in there. There's no prescription, but they key point is: no sheep worm eggs. Because for the next four months, remember 16 to 18 degrees maximum in temperature? Well, we don't go above that and neither do you, for that period of time. And so if we roll those together, we get six months. So we go back to the L3 death rate curve, 180 days. We're pushing out now having lost now maybe 97, 98 percent of the infective larvae that were there. And all we have to do is give two months effort. Two months effort coupled with four months free lunch. We get six months in terms of driving down L3 on pasture, when you put animals out to land. And so, if we think about that approach and then combine it with a smart grazing approach, so you use smart grazing or those of you that do, to prepare winter paddocks for weaners, so you'll drench in the summer, maybe in November, graze in a high stocking rate to get the pasture down so you increase death rate, because it opens up the pasture so it gets hotter. Hotter, they die more quickly, and then you may do it again in February and then prepare it for the wean as welL. We did exactly the same but did it the other way around. Did those grazings in January, March, and June, so the animals went in at three times the stocking rate with the drench, they grazed for three weeks, and that's what the picture's showing. So then by the time we got to the, pardon me, by the time we got to the end of June, we either had paddocks so that they basically set stock with sheep, or those that had had those three grazing events, same stocking rate. It reached across that time. Was that clear with everyone? Okay, so to impress the distribution of barber's pole that we expect to see, no surprise, it requires temperature, it requires moisture, 40 percent of our 800 millimetres falls in the summer months and it's warm, so we get more barber's pole in the summer. We know that by putting tracers in here and looking at that death rate, that if we just de-stock the lambing paddocks from the first of June to the first of September, 90 percent of the barber's pole would disappear, the infective larvae would die. But with this approach, of these different grazing periods with the smart grazing, we're able to remove 98 percent. Now you might think that's not much of a difference, but single baring Moreno ewes were put onto those paddocks to lamb, right at the end of August, the beginning of September. They were kept on there for the next four months, the blue or purple here are those that went on to the areas that had had that 90 percent reduction, the 98 percent reduction, and that's the worm egg count of the ewes, over the next 120 days. So those sheep that went on to the paddock that had been set-stocked over summer, but still had lost 90 percent of the barber's pole because it had been de-stocked since June, needed two treatments, and each treatment, there was over 90 percent barber's pole and the sheep that went onto the area that had had the smart grazing required no treatment. You can see the reduction in barber's pole, HC, Haemonchus contortus, and at weaning, the ewes were two kilos heavier and the lambs were three kilos heavier, as well. So just using the resources that we've got. So if we pivot now and say, well, we've covered genetics, we've covered grazing, the third point then is about vaccination against barber's pole. So Mordun Research Institute, the Scottish institute, developed the vaccine against barber's pole, or the concept of it, 20 years ago, and then they set about to develop it using recombinant technologies and it didn't work. So, what they did, and we'll try and move on, so that's a barber's pole worm, I've got my pocket knife out and sliced it open, that's the inside of the, basically, of the gut, that single passage of the roundworm. The blood gets absorbed, this product creates antibodies that bind to those membranes that absorb the blood, block them up so the parasites starve. How it's made: sheep go into a feedlot, basically they're infected with worms, come into a tube, they mash them up, put them through some chemical process to reduce a vaccine; there's nothing else like that in the world in order to provide immunity against barber's pole worm. It's not complete immunity, but averages somewhere between 60 and 80 percent. It's been on the market for four years now in this country, and it's initially registered for lambs, and now includes ewes and I'm expecting that maybe half a million sheep this year will be vaccinated with Barbervax against barber's pole worm, because it's not uncommon in the new England forto have zero efficacy against barber's pole, and without being alarmist, it's not uncommon for the only drenches that are effective against barber's pole to be Zolvix and Startect. So, if you were in that instance, you need to use alternatives before you have no drench alternatives, otherwise you've got to get rid of your bloodlines and de-stock and start again. And it retails at 70 cents per dose. So for those that don't know, Armidale's up in here, where we think we're high rainfall, but we haven't had any for about six months. So, the final point that I wanted to make, before I get dragged off, is then that's about management, and the next thing is about forecasting. Because I said right at the beginning that visual signs is too late, so the sheep CRC have put together a web-based platform called: Ask Bill. Aims to do all sorts of things, and we're nearly, nearly on the edge of having that cracked, so that it does provide the sorts of things that we'd like it to do, and all I've done here is for the area that I'm involved with, is to provide the worm risk on the Y-axis, this is time on the X-axis, and it's a four-species model, so you can go on there, you can register, and do the same for your location. And this is barber's pole. This is today, showing the last 400 days, and it's now ticking up from the Bureau of Med Access S-forecast, down to a five K grid. Taking out my farm, the stocking rate, the drench treatments that have been involved, et cetera, et cetera, and giving me the prediction, in terms of what's coming; the red's high risk, the green's low risk. So I'm low risk at the moment, and it's already giving me a head's up that sometime in early December, at the moment, I'm looking to go higher. So I start to think about maybe I might wean earlier, and maybe I'll use a different treatment. What sorts of paddock management am I likely to do? So in conclusion, the main impact of barber's pole is pretty simple: it's death. But that costs a lot of money. The life cycle makes it vulnerable, particularly to grazing management, worm resistant rams that are an easy step. There is vaccination procedures, and that forecasting tool, as we start to refine this and get feedback, is the key, of course, that starts to give us that forward knowledge. So thank you.
- [Woman's Voice] Thanks very much, Lewis. Very good, efficient.
- [Man's Voice] Ah, a few people had problems last, some of last year, with some barber's pole, and it really does pop up in certain parts of the country all the time, around here. I'm a producer, and I've had a problem over summer now, and I've technically dealt with it, had a hang up. What should I do now? And that's your actual problem, being that What should I do now, should I try and mitigate that risk in summer?
- [Lewis] Yeah, you get, you know that in your location, now, you're not gonna get any development, for quite some time, that development's not gonna start until September, I'm guessing, you'll know those. And it depends on whether it's a hot year or a cool year, those sorts of things, in terms of, you know, there's two things that I was asked to talk about, so you can't tell from a worm egg count if you've got barber's pole, you have to request a culture. So you might, for instance, request a culture to know how your kicking off for the spring season, and then presumably if you've treated it early, we've had a long period of time, and it's not endemic, so it's just a sporadic outcome. It may not be at high levels in the following season. So we have a monitoring programme. For instance, that would be involving culture rather than maybe just some worm egg counting, so you can, rather than seeing dead sheep, and then saying: I've got barber's pole. We can be ahead of the game, almost certainly you'll have access to sustained narrow-spectrum drugs like closantel here, and then you can talk about how you put that into your system.
- [Woman's Voice] I think Ewan was first.
- [Man's Voice] Yeah, two questions. The vaccines, does that need a booster dose, does it?
- [Lewis] Yeah, how the vaccine works is the first time around, I guess that there's two booster doses, three to four weeks apart. The third dose is, so the first one makes it protective, that's then, we know at this stage, it's gonna have a memory for three years. So subsequent years, the first dose brings them back up to a sufficient level to provide protection, and the re-vaccination interval is once you are primed, it's every six weeks, whenever you need protection.
- [Man's Voice] Alright, and what about dung beetles and do they help control barber's pole?
- [Lewis] Yeah, there's a massive, 22 million-dollar rural R&D for profit dung beetle projects, just about to start in this country, and part of that will look at that. Dung beetles are a two-edged sword. If you bury it deep, deep enough, the larvae won't, well the eggs or the larvae, that are in the eggs, that are in the faecal pellets, won't come back up. If you bury it shallow, they'll actually out-survive a lot of the parasites. So there's almost nothing that I would stake my hat on that would say which way it goes.
- [Man's Voice] So, Lewis, just around the vaccination season, they've gotta be vaccinated three times, three weeks apart, four weeks apart, until they've got immunity?
- [Lewis] Correct.
- [Man's Voice] And then every?
- [Lewis] Six weeks.
- [Man's Voice] Six weeks while there's a challenge occurring with the sheep.
- [Lewis] Yeah, so what typically happens, so if this is about learnings from new England, sheep are, so the recommended, there's many ways to skin a cat, Andrew, but you can, the typical way is lamb-marking, between marking the wean, weaning with the drench, starts them off V3, then a six weekly, and so in the first year, you might be five or six, hereafter it should be four or five vaccinations a year. Companies are trying, definitely, to get a better edge in that district there, but that's proving hard.
- [Man's Voice] Just on the cattle following in rotation, what sort of stock rates do you need to be effective to do that, is it really headed, or?
- [Lewis] No, it's not about the hoovering, it's about the rest. So it's basically eating the grass so it doesn't grow rank without adding to the level of pasture contamination from sheep worm eggs. There is some crossover, young calves can get infected with barber's pole, Haemonchus Contortis, not Haemonchus Glacei, they can minimise that. But after all, it's still like a fudging at the edge, and I wouldn't worry too much about it.
- [Man's Voice] I forgot what people, ah, if you've had an outbreak of barber's pole, which can come in subsequent years with So if you had it last year, would it pay this year even though you don't have much observed impact? So if you give closantel a couple times a year, will it clean it up?
- [Lewis] Yeah, I think that's the classic approach, to use southwest of WA, and if you talk to guys like Graham Vizier, they will say that it will clean that up for a number of years, if you can do that. So in your instance here, you might, you know, first of all, the first thing is check with someone who knows the conditions and the location, but that first summer drench, in terms of wherever you locate that in November, would be an absolute cracking time to then provide that sustained activity against barber's pole.
- [Narrator] Authorised by Victorian Government, One Treasury Place, Melbourne.
Arthritis and pneumonia in sheep
Dr Joan Lloyd, consultant from NSW, talks on the incidence and causes of arthritis in sheep, particularly in relation to tail docking length and pneumonia.
- - [Robert] Welcome to TED number four. I'm Robert Suter, Senior Veterinary Officer Sheep with Agriculture Victoria. We have Joan Lloyd here, who is a veterinarian, a consultant. She's working for herself, she's done some research on arthritis and pneumonia in sheep. She's a graduate from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, and I'll hand over to Joan and we'll take questions at the end. Thank you.
- [Joan] Okay, thank you very much and I'll try and be faster this time. Didn't allow enough time for questions last time. So I hope that doesn't mean that I just talk so quickly that you can't understand me. So if you have any issues, put your hand up and I'll slow down. I'd like to start first of all by thanking you for coming to my presentation this morning, and also, to thank Ag Vic for the opportunity to come here to Bendigo to give you this presentation today. So this morning, I'd like to share with you some of the results from my research on arthritis in lambs over the last couple of years. In particular, the correlation between arthritis and docked tailing, and also, I'll speak briefly about pneumonia in sheep and so, I'll get started. So, arthritis in sheep is usually bacterial and not degenerative. So, in contrast to the type of arthritis that we get as we get older, which is a degenerative osteoarthritis, arthritis in sheep, and in particular in lambs, is usually the result of a bacterial infection, and so how did the bacteria get into the joints? Well the bacteria usually enter the sheep's body through a break in the skin and as you are aware, the vast majority of sheep that have a break in their skin, any sort of cut in the skin, will never have antibiotic treatment, even if that cut becomes infected. So what happens is that they have an infected cut or a break in their skin, the bacteria can get into their blood, they become septicemic, that bacteria spreads through their body, in the blood, and the joint capsule, the lining of the joint, is one of the places in an animal's body, where bacteria will lodge following septicemia. Three main groups of bacteria are reported to cause arthritis in sheep. The first of these is Erysipelothrix, and Erysipelothrix is a bacteria that's very widespread in the environment, and it's a bacteria that's most commonly associated with arthritis after lamb marking in sheep. There's also a group of bacteria that I've referred to here as the pyogenic bacteria. That just means that they're pus-forming. They form pus, and the other, a group that I'm just putting in a category of other bacteria. Now, a previous MLA review of arthritis in sheep found that these three groups of bacteria occurred in roughly equal proportions, a third, a third, a third, and of these three groups, it's Erysipelothrix and the pyogenic bacteria that enter through a break in the sheep's skin. So why would tail length matter? How how could tail length possibly be related to arthritis in sheep? And we have AWI to thank for me coming up with this hypothesis. A number of years ago, AWI asked me to review all of the old historical literature that was used to determine the recommendations for tail-docking length. So I went back and looked at all of this historical literature, where trials had occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, prior to people starting to mules. To see where that recommendation had come from and in that early research, they investigated four different tail lengths that you can see here. So the first one, which they refer to as long tails, were about four inches long, or tails in which the end of the tail extended to about half an inch below the lower border of the bare area. Medium-long tails, in which the tail extended to just below the lower tip of the vulva, but did not extend below the lower edge of the bare area. Medium tails, which are about two inches long, and in which the end of the tail was opposite the midpoint of the vulva. And then short tails, which didn't extend below the upper edge of the vulva. And in some of these studies they also looked at tails that were docked level with the buttocks, and they also looked at undocked tails and they used a number of different criteria to determine which was the best tail length. They looked at the incidence of flystrike, dag formation, urine staining, the rate of healing of the tail-docking wounds, the rate of infection of the tail-docking wounds, the confirmation of the tail stump, and the ease of shearing. And so what I'm going to do today is just share with you some of the results around the rate of healing and the rate of infection. If you want to, I've summarised all that other information on the various criteria in this report, which is on the AWI website if anybody is interested they can go and read the whole report. So, I'll just share with you first of all, some information on the healing of tail-docking wounds, and this was looked at 10 days after marking in wether lambs, and these lambs have been docked using a cold knife because at the time, this was before the invention of either the rings or the gas docking knife so all they had was the regular lamb-marking knife, and this figure shows the degree of healing with the three different tail lengths that were included in this experiment and the degree of healing was determined using an eight-point scale, with eight being complete healing and one being no healing and the numbers in-between are equal gradations between complete and no healing, and you can see here that quite clearly, the degree of healing was highest in those lambs that had their tails docked long. They also looked at infection in the tailing wounds at six days after marking, and this is, again, those three tail lengths and this is the percentage of lambs with infected tails and you can clearly see here, that the lambs that had their tails docked short had a very high rate of infection in those short tails. Between 90 and 100% of them had infected tailing wounds, compared to the long tails, with only about 10% of them being infected. And the researchers hypothesised that these results were because of the amount of muscle that's cut through when a tail is docked short, and it takes muscle much longer to heal than, if you have a lot of muscle that will take longer to heal. Also, they did experiments where they dissected the tail to look at the anatomy and figure out where the musculature and how the muscles of the tail attached onto the vertebrae in the tail, and they found that the muscles that allow a sheep to lift up its tail attach to the vertebrae at about the level of the bottom of the bare area on the underside of the tail. So if you cut through that bare area on the underside of the tail, actually it means that that animal can no longer lift its tail, and so there's an increased risk of faecal contamination because the animal can't lift its tail out of the way. So this was where we get the odd thing, for me coming up with this somewhat bizarre theory that there might be a link between short docking and the risk of arthritis. Now, I collected data for this work at three different time points, in 2014 and 2015, at the TFI plant at Murray Bridge, and the carcasses with arthritis were identified by the meat inspectors, I worked on the slaughter floor so I needed to fit in with the requirements of an export abattoir. They did all of the identification and the trimming. I developed a method for palpating the length, or determining the length of the tail, which I did by palpation, after skinning but before the tail was removed. I tried to get the tail length on as many animals as possible, get as many of them with arthritis, and as many in the line without arthritis as possible, but you understand that when carcasses are going by at 11 a minute, there isn't a lot of time and so I didn't always manage to get every single one. I also collected intact, undamaged joints to do cultures for bacteria, just to confirm the type of bacteria that were present and the abattoir was generous in sharing some of its records so I could look at correlations with age and breed and all different other sort of things that researchers like to do. So in total for the analysis of tail length and arthritis we had about 20,000 carcasses in that analysis. The majority crossbreds and lambs, which is probably a reflection of the type of animals that that plant was processing, and you can see here that this figure shows the prevalence of arthritis, where two or less joints in the tail or three or more, and this was in fact a highly statistically significant result, and I noticed Pat's sitting up the front today, so Pat, Pat did some further analysis of this data for me and what we, looking at the data, about 20% of the carcasses, the tails were shorter than the current recommendation to dock at the third palpable joint and in those carcasses there was 1.5 times higher risk of the presence of arthritis. So that means people, if you're currently docking at anything less than three joints, if you go to a longer tail you could reduce your risk of arthritis by a third. And that's a very simple thing to do because it doesn't cost any money. We also, I did some work looking at the cost of arthritis, and I said to the previous group that there must be something wrong with me because I like to pick up bits of things off the floors of abattoirs and weight them, to see how much they weigh. So this work involved 354 lines, or consignments, of lambs, and interestingly, the number of those lines, about 50% of those lines had at least one carcass affected with arthritis. So there's certainly arthritis. It may not occur at a very high level in every flock but it's out there as a smouldering issue. Some flocks sometimes have more of a problem than others but it's certainly there. We found that, on average, when a carcass had a problem with arthritis, 0.7 of a kilo was trimmed off it. We then put the carcasses back together to try and figure out if there was a growth rate penalty associated with arthritis, and on the basis of hot standard carcass weight, we found that there's a 1.2 kilo growth rate penalty, and if you assume that there's a 45% dressing percentage, as David Rutley at the TFI plant has assured me, then that 1.2 kilos translates to 2.7 kilos of live weight, and that is the penalty associated with arthritis. If we put the average trim weight penalty, and add that to the carcass weight, with the growth rate penalty, that's two kilos. So a carcass with arthritis costs two kilos at the scales. So I want to return, just briefly now, to these three main groups of bacteria that cause arthritis in sheep, and you'll remember at the beginning I said these occur roughly in about a third, a third, a third, that's what's been thought historically. From the culture work that I did, I found out that two thirds of them are Erysipelothrix, a sixth of them is pyogenic bacteria, and a sixth of them, the other types of bacteria. So the most common type of bacteria that cause arthritis in sheep are these types of bacteria that enter through breaks in the skin. I just want to speak briefly a little bit, one thing about pyogenic bacteria. In particular this bacteria, Streptococcus suis, which is a bacteria normally associated with pigs. Now I found this in four of the joints, four of 150 joints that we tried to culture things out of, and this is only the second time that this has been recorded in the literature, that Streptococcus suis can be found in the joints of sheep. The reason that this is an issue is that this bacteria, this particular bacteria, is considered one of the top seven microbiological zoonotic risks that can be transferred from livestock to humans. So this was a significant finding and I'm going to some more, go back and do some more work. I did this based on culture, I managed to find a PCR test, I'll then go back and re-test all of the joints. Lots of hypotheses about how, I think a big problem with feral pigs in Australia, I think, just, interesting to know how the sheep are getting it. A little bit about other types of bacteria, and because I'm a veterinary pathologist, I can't give a talk without showing you a picture of what you see down the microscope. So this is what you would see down the microscope. This is the tissue, the joint tissue, of one of the joints that we studied. So the joint capsule, and these clear things that look like grains of rice, are little bits of vegetable material. Most likely the remnants of a grass seed. And these blue-black things are bacteria. So I cultured the bacteria out of these joints and I sent them to the Australian Genome Research Foundation in Melbourne, and they reported back to me that these bacteria are one of the bacteria that's part of the normal skin flora of sheep. So I think what can happen with grass seeds is when the grass seeds penetrate through the skin, they take the normal bacteria that live on the skin of the sheep in with them, and you get little abscesses that form associated with those grass seeds. Similar type of mechanism, straight through the blood and they cause arthritis. Other risk factors that we found in this study for arthritis in sheep is being a Marino. And we found a two to three times higher rate of arthritis in Merinos and crossbreds or Dorpers, and this has been reported previously as an issue and if you think about it, Merinos traditionally have had a procedure done to them in mulesing that causes a big area that there's the potential for infection. Also shearing, if there's any amount of cutting of the skin during shearing, can cause problems with arthritis. That can be a problem in older sheep, just not in lambs. So, if I had a problem with arthritis in my sheep there are a few key questions that this research would prompt me to ask. The first thing I would do, is I would have a really critical review, look really critically at my lamb marking procedures, and as well as all the other things that traditionally you've heard around hygiene and weather and not doing it during muddy or dusty times, I would ask myself a few critical questions and the first one I would ask myself is, am I docking too short? And anything less that three joints is too short. I would ask of myself, do I really need to dock these lambs? If these are lambs I'm going to turn off as young lambs before there's any risk of flystrike, why am I even docking them? I would also ask myself, with this particular group of lambs do I really need to mules them? So I think what I would do is just critically review every part of my lamb-marking procedure and ask myself why and how I'm doing it. I would then ask myself, do I have the grass seed problem on my property under control? I would ask myself as there pigs in the lambing paddocks? And if there are, how can I get them out of there? Or how can I keep them out of there? And then if I'm currently shearing prior to slaughter, I'd want to do some comparisons between my return from shearing and the losses from arthritis, to see if I need to make any changes. So a bit about pneumonia in sheep, and the reason I became interested in pneumonia in sheep is that, when I was standing there on the slaughter floor at Murray Bridge, in all honesty, I just could not believe the number of carcasses that I saw where those animals had a problem with pneumonia during their life. They either turned up at the plant with a form of amazing pneumonia going on, or they had signs of scarring. And what can happen, pneumonia in sheep is a complex disease. It involves the interaction of a number of different factors. A number of different pathogens or bacteria and viruses, environmental conditions, host factors, any type of stress will predispose sheep to pneumonia, and what happens in pneumonia is, it doesn't matter if you're a sheep or us, or a cow, covering the lungs is a membrane called the pleura, and that membrane covers the outside of the lungs and the insides of the ribcage, and what can happen when you have pneumonia is that the inflammation and infection can spread into that membrane and then you can get scarring and so what happens is that the lungs, the outside of the lungs actually fuses on to the inside of the ribs, and when that animal turns up in a plant where they have to eviscerate it, it becomes a problem because the lungs are stuck onto the inside of the ribcage. At 11 a minute, there isn't time to fiddle around. They just cut the ribs off and that is a significant loss for the plant because as soon as you cut the ribs out of the lamb carcass you lose one of the most valuable cuts off that carcass which is the rack. And so what was potentially a high-value carcass for a plant becomes a low-value carcass. So the plant at Murray Bridge would have given me truckloads, semitrailer loads of pneumonic lungs if I'd promised to provide a solution to them, but I couldn't. But while I was there, I did a little bit of work that demonstrates this problem and so we looked first of all at, we looked at pleurisy. We didn't look at pneumonia, just looked at pleurisy, because that was easiest for what I was doing in the plant. Looked at 227 lines, representing almost 40,000 carcasses. Similar sort of demographic spread as what we found with arthritis, and we found that half of the 227 lines had a problem with pleurisy, and the overall rate was about 1% of all the carcasses that we looked at, and the within line prevalence was about 2.2%, ranging up to 10%. This doesn't sound like much but this is probably a gross underestimate of the problem. If we had been looking at mutton sheep, what they find with the South Australian Enhanced Abattoir Surveillance Programme is that nine out of 10 producers consigned mutton sheep did have a problem with pneumonia, and the pneumonia level in the mutton sheep is at a much higher issue. Again, because of my love of picking things up and weighing them, did the similar thing here. We found about a third of the carcasses, they didn't have to do any trimming, they were ahead of time, and they could just get that diseased pleura out. About 13% of them had a quarter of the ribcage removed. Half of them had half, so one whole side of the ribcage cut out. About 20% had either three quarters of the full ribcage cut out. You can see here, the penalty associated with that and overall the average penalty was around a kilo. There were region and age effects. So for aged lambs, a higher level in lambs than young lambs. That makes sense, because lambs will have most likely, they would have gone through the stress of weaning, whereas young lambs may not have. We didn't find that there was a great effect. So just to sum up, my conclusions there. About half of the lines that I looked at had evidence that pneumonia had been a problem in those lambs. On average it affected about 2% of the line. Region and age, but not breed, were risk factors, and the trimming results in about a kilo of loss, but for the plant the loss is greater because they've lost that high-value cut. So over the next 12 months, I'll be doing a bit more work on pneumonia in sheep. I'm actually going from here to Adelaide to do some data collection at the plant at Lobethal. What I'm going to try and do is figure out which of the primary pathogens might be a problem in Australian lambs, and Australian sheep more generally. I'll be doing that by collecting diseased lung and matching blood samples. I also had a plant near Sydney in New South Wales that I'll be collecting samples on, and I've had a discussion with Robert about maybe coming down here and doing some sample collection down here. So, I can't give you any answers on pneumonia. I can just tell you that there's a problem. So I'm sorry, at this stage I've no more to offer. I put some cards up the front here and I also, that's my website. I have a form on the website where if you send an email it'll come directly to me. If you'd like to subscribe to my newsletter or if you have any questions that there isn't time for me to answer today, I'm happy for you to take my card and email or contact me at a later date.
- [Robert] Well, thank you Joan, and we will take some questions, and I have one down the front here.
- [Man] Joan, could you make a comment about the current commercial arthritis vaccine that's available and its relative cost effectiveness in the light of what you've done?
- [Robert] So the question again Joan, for the tape, was what is the relative value of the commercial vaccine for arthritis?
- [Man] In the light of what you've done, though.
- [Joan] In the light of what I've done. So what I can say is that the commercial vaccine, it's Erysipelothrix. The commercial vaccine is Erysipelothrix. I personally have not seen the efficacy data for that vaccine, so I can't comment on that. All I can say is the vaccine is against what I have found is the most common cause of arthritis in lambs. In terms of the cost effectiveness, I've recently started, I have a small lab associated with the King's School in Sydney, and I will be having some Year 11 students working with me as interns or apprentices, starting next year. One of the things I was thinking that they might be able to do, is develop a little app, or calculator, that can be available for people, to help people make a decision about whether it's worth vaccinating our not, so they can compare those losses to the cost of vaccination. I also know that there's someone named Richard Shepherd, who might be working on something like that, but I think, with the information I have there, now the next step is to develop some sort of simple app or calculator, and I think someone who is 17 is better placed to do that than me, so.
- [Man] Thank you.
- [Man] I've seen lambs with arthritis before we mark them, and I suspect that there's a few disappearing very early in their lives, as a result of joint infections. now where would that be then?
- [Joan] Well, that's a good question. I'm not sure that I could answer that.
- [Man] Umbilical cord?
- [Joan] From their umbilical cord, it's less common in Australian sheep. Certainly in the UK, the most common cause of joint infections in the sheep in the UK is through the umbilical cord, and under UK conditions they normally lamb inside sheds and so the lambs are held in that dirty environment so there's opportunity to go in through the umbilical cord. That's less common under Australian conditions because you normally lamb outside in paddocks. So there isn't the concentration, but do you have, where do your ewes lamb?
- [Man] In a paddock.
- [Joan] In a paddock. So that's one thing. Are pigs a problem?
- [Man] No.
- [Joan] You might need, it might be something that Robert's team could come and investigate for you, because something like that, it would be beneficial to do some diagnostic work, some culturing work and, I've had someone else ask me before when collecting samples, to look for arthritis, the best thing to sample is actually the joint capsule itself and there's different things that can be done with that. Can do culture. I have two PCR tests that work for that, can look for Erysipelothrix and also for Streptococcus suis. So there's things that can be done to investigate what your problem is, and even though I said before with the vaccine, that Erysipelothrix is the most common, so your best, if you were making a best bet decision, you could go with the vaccine, but if you really want to be sure, then the best way is to do some diagnostic work to start with, because you don't want to waste your money on the vaccine if your problem is in fact Streptococcus suis or one of these other bacteria. The other type of bacteria that can cause arthritis in sheep that I haven't spoken about today is Chlamydophila pecorum. Chlamydophila isn't transmitted through a break in the skin, it's transmitted via the fecal-oral route, and the lambs get it from the ewes soon after birth, so this could also be your problem. Researchers at Murdoch have developed a very effective PCR test for Chlamydophila pecorum in sheep. I sent all of my samples over to Murdoch and they tested them for me. I did find that certainly some of the lambs had a problem with Chlamydophila and it was at a low level but that is something that you would also need to keep in your mind, whether, in your scenario, that might be the more likely thing. So I think in your situation, having some diagnostic work done, that would be my recommendation.
- [Robert] A question there by the heater.
- [Woman] There's a new docking iron that has come out, that not only docks the tail, it takes a little bit around the outside of the tail to stop dags building up on top of that. Is that gonna be a new problem ?
- [Joan] Well, it's interesting you should ask that, because I did put a proposal in to MLA with the last round of funding, to look at different docking methods, and see if they had an impact, and actually follow, and look at docking methods, and follow the lambs all the way through into the plants and look if there was any difference in terms of growth and carcass yield. I made it through the first round but it's very competitive and I didn't make it through the second. So unfortunately I can't really answer that question for you.
- [Robert] Everyone thank Joan and--
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DNA flock profiling and ram team management – Unlock your genetic potential
Lucinda Hogan, Sheep CRC explains how DNA flock profiling can provide keys to the current genetic status of your merino ewe flock and opportunities for improvement and ram selection. Lu also outlines how RamSelect can be used to optimize ram selection across breeds.
- - [Lu Hogan] Thanks very much and thank you for coming to the session. Up where it's very very dry and up this way. So yeah, so we're doing training and engagement for Sheep CRC and my husband and I also have a place in maternal composite flock and trade cattle as well so obviously in the game. But what I wanna talk to you today about several tools that have been developed by the Sheep CRC over time. One is flock profiling in Merino flocks but also talk to you about the RamSelect web based app which is a way that you can integrate all your genetic management and searching for Rams so they're gonna suit your needs. So we're trying to pull that all together into one sort of package for genetic management going forward. And RamSelect obviously is relevant to all grades of sheep and flock profiling, as I said is at the moment relevant for Marine but we are working on a test that working cross bred animals as well. And hopefully we'll be able to deliver that by the end of the Sheep CIC. So buying the right rams is one of the most important decisions you make in your sheep flock across the year and the reason is that those rams drive the genetic gain in the flock. We buy a lot of selection intensity to the rams that we purchase because we're going to 2% or 1% of rams so we can have a lot of selection intensity and really select the ones that are high performing in this example here for fleece weight. The ewes, we have to really keep most of them because we need to keep our numbers up in our flock. And so you really don't have any opportunity to take out the time, so the selection intensity, the drive of genetic gain improves in productivity over time, based on the rams that you buy. And that's why it's such an important investment that you make in sheep. We have a very short session today so I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail about what a Australian sheep values, what really these are. Just a little bit of a touch on that. But there is a booklet in the back if you'd like it to get more explanation or feel free to contact me directly if you wanna talk through some more about understanding Australian sheep breeding values. Alright, people buying rams nowadays, just give a show of hands, a good amount, okay. So what ASBV is, it's a set of figures for each ram that your ram grader is selling that they provide to you. It takes it's calculated using the raw performance that you'll measure on that animal, weight, fleece weight, wind resistance, etc. Remove the effects of environment in management so we can understand the actual genetic potential of that animal or its progeny, I should say, potential of the progeny and we call that breeding value. It's only the genes that are gonna get passed on, only the environmental effects and the skew of your management is not passed on to the next generation. It's the gene that is passed on. And the reason that ASBVs work and we can compare animals across environment and across years and across styles is because we have linkage between all of those perimeters so stock breeders are sharing semen across studs and across ewes and in between states, etc and that creates linkage which allows us to benchmark across those studs and give breeding value. So if you're past 10 for something in Victoria and you're past 10 in Australia, it's genetically the same and that's a really important concept to understand with Australian sheep breeding values. The other really important thing to understand about breeding values is that they're based around zero. So what happened was back in 1990 when we started creating databases for genetic evaluation, the average of the database back in 1990 was set at zero. And everything is described as a deviation from zero back in 1990, okay and that's why the figures can be a little bit hard to understand. And we spent a little bit of time working through that. But basically if we think about 1990, when we set all those averages to zero, some tracts that we've been selecting to increase like fleece weight and body weight had gone up in value so we have positive values for those now. Other things where we've been wanting to reduce the value like fibre diameter or worm egg count have gone down so they're actually negative values now. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. We want less of those things. We want less worms generally speaking. And there are some things that are still floating around at zero value, number of lambs weaned and fat. And that could be because they were actually not in a bad position in terms of what the industry wanted to achieve or it might be that there just hasn't been a lot of selection pressure applied to those traits so they haven't moved a lot over time. So does everyone, are there any questions on that concept?
- [Woman] Would you say that like the ones that are zero, they made selection pressure. I know it's subtle with the genes are linked. Could it be that? - There's correlations. Yes, so some things, if we have a strong correlation, for example, between fibre diameter and fleece weight, the correlations might make it hard to shift something. That's true but generally most things have moved a little bit in the value of selection pressure and wanting to change things amongst them. So actually these things allow us to unravel that strong correlation in conditions and apply the pressure that makes improvement. So this is where the value hits the road. When you go the Ram sale and you're faced with a pen card like this. This is Cressbrook is a start up in New England, where I come from, that's the tag number for the ram obviously, we know we're looking at Australian sheep breeding days because we've got the Merino Select logo here. And also 'cause we have accuracy figures across here. So you can be confident that you are looking at ASBVs if you can see those two things on the pin card. We've got the traits yielding five. Fleece weights are yielding five, diameter, weight, worm egg count, status strength on this particular card and the three main production engagements. And I've got stack sheets around those indexes up the back if you want those. And this animal is an 18.1 fleece weight so it's above industry average which is 12.6 so it's quite a good animal in terms of fleece weight. It's actually not as good as industry average in terms of worm egg count because it's probably average more negative than 15 because we're wanting less of those things in our animals. Okay, you might not have seen this before. This is what we call the Percentile Band Table. Has anyone seen that before, yeah, great. So there are copies of it up the back if you'd like to just take one and have a look at it. It looks pretty horrendous and I think it is reasonably horrendous and that's one of the reasons why we've developed a tool to simplify how to use this table. But basically this is the Merino one and you can also get them for terminals and maternals. It tells us about animals born in 2016. And we've brought all the traits that we're interested in across the top here in the indexes. And then we've got a percentile band position from zero to 100 and if we look at the first column which is fibre diameter, you can see the finest animal in the Merino Select database, born in 2016 is -6.1 fibre diameter and the stronger animal is +5.7 so we've got a 12 mark run range in animals born in 2016 in the Merino Select database. And we also know that this is 50, this is the 50 percentile which is industry average and at the moment, the industry average for animals born in 2016 is -1.2 so what that tells us is on average our Merino flock has become finer since 1995, 1.2 microns on average. That's an important concept to understand. The other thing to say is that there's no good and bad here. It's what, it depends on what you wanna see on this Percentile Band table depending on what you wanna achieve in your flock and where you're based and what's suitable for your environment. So simplifying produces would expect to be up here in terms of the fibre diameter but if you're in South Australia or West, you might be expecting to be down here in terms of fibre diameter. It's not good or bad, it's just what's sensible for your business and what you're trying to achieve in your business and the same for all those trades. Any questions about that or comments? Okay, so the way you use this table to make sense of the numbers is as I said, you need to, if I'm looking at a ram that's +16.8 fleece weight, is that good or bad? How do I know and we use this table to understand where that sits relative to the rest of the industry. So first thing you need to make sure you've got in Merino Percentile Band Table is reasonably recent. This one's getting a little out of date now. But this example is still relevant. And you can download these from the Sheep CRC database at anytime and get the most up to date one. So we're interested in fleece weight. So we can look at that code here and we just scroll up from the bottom until we get to the value of 16.8 and you can see that arrow shows that 16.8 is sitting at the 30th percentile so what that means is this animal's in the top 30% of animals in the database for fleece weight, okay. And we're starting to give some currency to those numbers that we're pretty many before. So we can use this table to understand where animals sit in industry and have how full they are for particular trades. The RamSelect app that I will show you takes this and simplifies this for you. But it's really important that you understand what's going on in the background. So I'd like to move on now to talk to you about RamSelect app that been developed by the Sheep CRC and it's now available as advertised app. So you can look at it on your home computer, on an iPad, you can look at it on a phone. It's pretty crowded but it's available. You just go to the website, you don't download it from the app store, you just go to the website and it's there and it comes up. The first thing that you can do with RamSelect is search Rams that are for sale. So we're relying on ram breeders who are in sheep genetics to list their catalogues on the RamSelect app. And then they're available for you to search and rank animals according to what you're looking for. So the first thing you do when you come in is you start with one of the standard industry indexes and in this case I'm using the Merino Production Index and then, so these slide bars are set in the exact, to give you a ranking exactly equivalent to a Merino Production Index and what you can then do is make adjustment to those slider bars according to what you're interested in for your business. So if you're trying to drive fleece weight, you might increase the emphasis on fleece weight. And you might be also interested in growth so you might look forward, emphasis on growth on the slider bars so by simply moving those sliders bars and yellow buttons. This is all plain English around what the profit drivers are in the Merino business and if you open up the show buttons, you come to a secondary level that actually goes to the individual trades. And you can adjust the balance for individual trades. And in this case, I've opened the parasite resistance one down here and you can see I can adjust the balance between breech wrinkle and wind resistance in my ranking. Each time you move those slider parts, you get, this pie chart changes in terms of the portions of emphasis you're putting on those different traits and when you're happy with the balance you've got between the trades, you just click on the Update List and it will go away and search for Rams and rank them according to your grading technique, your pie chart so it goes away and looks at all the rams that are currently on the website and ranks them according to your needs. So you can see here, I've just got a listing of a single stud, Pooginook but you could have multiple studs in multiple listings as well if you want that. So the top ranked animal is 150105. And this obviously an old catalogue but he's in 2016 in Rams on that site, alright. If you want to and so we go down the rank list. Number two, three, four and five. And if they were lot numbers intervened, they'd also be showing here and we could list by the lot numbers by the auction so you could print this out according to lot number and follow the sale along in the proper order. If you open up the little arrow here, you can actually see the actual ASBVs sitting behind for that animal. So you've ranked them according to your emphasis on those ASBVs but if you don't wanna look at the actual data out of the individual trade, you can just have that hidden but it's all there and certainly searchable and you can read that at any time. The blue boxes here mean that the animal is in the top 10% of the database for that particular trade. And what we're showing is the individual animal's value, fleece weight, the accuracy of that figure and what the industry average is as well. Okay so that's the first thing, the first functionality, ability of RamSelect was to allow you to search for rams and rank them according to your needs and then take that off to the sale and be prepared for the sale. So when you get to, on sale day, you've done all your figure work at home in advance and what you can do then is focus on the visual inspection of that Ram and decide whether or not you're gonna get on it based on visual inspection 'cause you've already got it ranked according to the ASBVs. There's been some additional functionality added into RamSelect, the first one is to, the way that we report flock profile results and we'll talk about that in a moment and the second one is to manage the batch of rams you've got on your property and store the information about their ASBVs for analysis in the future and keeping track of where you've been going with rams. And the other beauty of that RamSelect is that you don't, it automatically updates the ASBV data every night so you don't have to worry about keeping data up to date, it's automatically updated for you once you've created that account. So moving onto the flock profiling now. This has been developed by the CRC over the last 18 months with the Merinos only as I said. But what we found is that the genomic testing that we originally developed for stock breeders to test individual animals that Merino genetics could be applied at the mob level if we just randomly sampled 20 ewes from your youngest age group. We could do that by either collecting a blood sample on a blood card here or by collecting a little bit of tissue from the ewe using a Allflex tissue sampler. We send that off for analysis and what we get back is the flock average ASBV for your ewe base. So not individual values but just an average for that age group and the traits that we get a report for our fleece weight, fibre diameter, stable length, eye muscle, weight, fat and curvature, alright. And you get the base indexes of Merino Production, Fibre production so that goes off to the lab. It takes three, four weeks to come back and you get a report that then intervened to RamSelect and you can access that data at any time. With your flock profiling, it's really important to remember that the average ewe base will reflect the Ram team that you had on the property three to six years ago and that's because of genetic lag. You think about the age structure of genetic ewes within your flock, you've up to five to six year old ewes in a flock and they will have been side by rams that were around six or seven years ago. So it takes time for genetics to flow through the age structure and that's why there's a lag in terms of being the flock profiling results. And you always need to take that into account when you're looking at the results. So this is an example for Victorian grower that we did his test results a couple months ago now. And this is just a screen shot from his RamSelect account. So we're seeing the traits, fibre diameters, stapling, weaning weight, fleece weight, yearling weight and eye muscle depth. And if you just recall back to the Percentile Band Table I showed you earlier, this yellow box is showing you exactly the same things. The branch of values that exist within the Merino Select database so fibre diameter, we've got from plus six to minus six, exactly the same as we had on the Percentile Band Table. The red line shows us industry average or the 50th percentile on the Percentile Event Table. And the green line is this actual flock's test result for that trait. Now that's, its nice to look at that visually but it's really the actual numbers that you need to focus on so we also show in RamSelect the actual numbers in table format as well so you can come in and have a look at the numbers so on this card here, we've got the result for the actual flock so the breeders flock, the percentile band position that put hims in, puts him or her in, what the industry average, and the industry minimum and the industry maximum. And once you can see this range from plus six to minus six again for fibre diameter so let's just focus on three things to start with. In terms of yearling fibre diameter, we found that the flock average was - 0.5 and that's pretty in the 80th percentile so stronger than industry average by quite a bit but quite comfortable with that because of the tough environment that those animals are in. So the fleece, the fibre diameter for the full clip was actually quite acceptable in terms of business goals. If we look at the clean fleece weight, sitting at 13.9 which puts it right around the 50th percentile or the industry average and also then we look at post yearling weight, we are sitting at 5.1 which puts the flock in the 14th percentile so slightly above industry average in terms of yearling weight. So there's a snapshot of what the ewes on the property were looking like genetically. And the other thing that this producer had done was gone out and started to buy rams with the ASBVs over the last three years and was really trying to push the particular fleece weight but also yearling weight in terms of the rams purchasing. So the other thing that we could store within RamSelect is that ram team information for the property, for the business itself. And it's a very simple thing to load the information in. And just by adding in the ideas of the animals and it goes away and searches the sheep database to find the ASBVs of those rams. So we can benchmark the rams in exactly the same way as we just have the ewes. And you can see that the rams that he currently has on the property that they purchased using ASBVs are a bit finer so they're -.75 so taking the flock that in the 70th percentile so they're moving up the scale in terms of fibre diameter. Made a dramatic shift in terms of genetic potential for growing wool on the property because we've moved from around 13 to 22.5 in terms of fleece weight so putting this ram in the top 10 percentile, top 10% industry in terms of fleece weight and also an improvement in terms of yearling weight so achieved the 30 percentile in terms of yearling weight. So there's rams that he's started to purchase are going to make a really big shift to the flock and starting to see that flowing through in the younger progeny so the other thing we can do in RamSelect is actually track that ram average over time. So here's the three years, this is the three years that I started buying rams and we're tracking the average of that team up into 2018 so you can also track changes over time and know if you're actually heading in the right direction in terms of the rams that you're buying and what you want to achieve in the business. So we can see that fibre diameter has been going up a little bit since he started, staple strength also has gone up a bit so the length going up CB reflect but you can see a big improvement in fleece weight in the 10 average over the last three years. And if we just wanna, just to summarise that again, I guess, we're gonna compare the ewes that were flock profiled and current rank team on the property. And we can see that clearly the rams are finer than the current ewe base, longer in terms of staple length, they're much better in terms of fleece weight. They're heavier in terms of yearling weight. And this is probably traits to be kicking around because they are moving backwards in terms of eye muscle depth so some of those traits, something to focus on. So I hope you can see how you can combine those two pieces of information, the flock profile and the ram information to really understand what's going on in terms of genetics in your business and to set goals for where you wanna go in the future and understand how you can then apply filters back in the RamSelect app to search for rams that are not gonna take you backwards. So you can actually exclude using what we call filters, exclude animals that less or poorer for a value than you might wanna have going forward. A lot of people say to me, it's all very well to have all those good rams but I can't afford to buy them. So I think the other value of having a flock profile test and understanding the rams that you're buying is you can actually make some estimates about how much money you make out of buying those better rams and whether it's a value proposition for you in the business to spend some money on those rams. So if you just look at plain fleece weight, for the example we've just shown you, we know that the ram team average for fleece weight is + 22, the ewes were at, we'll call it + 14. The next drop of progeny is gonna get half their genes from the ram and half of them from the ewes. So + 11 and + 17 so the first progeny from the joining this ram team to the current ewe base will do a progeny for + 18 fleece weight. So they're gonna be 4% better than their mothers. We're gonna shift from + 14 to + 18 and 4% better. And we can make an estimate of what that's worth so 4% more wool on the six kilo base which is what's been currently shown. It's another 240 grammes per head per year. And at the time we did this it was $14.50. It's even better than that now, I think, I'm pretty sure. These progeny are gonna cut 4% more per head per year than their mothers, okay and if we talk about five shearings out of the lifetime of those ewes. They're gonna deliver another $17 to the business per head over their lifetime and I think if we redid those numbers today, they'd be even better. Yeah, okay, I think that might be the last slide. So in summary, if you have a Merino flock, think about doing a flock profile test to really understand the basis of the ewes that you're running your business on. Once you've done that, it can go to Ram purchases and store your ram team data and RamSelect and you've got all this information in one place at one time and the final thing I wanted to say was a lot of questions about can we profile cross bred flocks and we are working to develop that but in the interim what we're trying to develop that, you can ask, say you're buying first cross ewes, it would be quite reasonable for you to ask the breeder of those first class ewes to provide what profile on the Merino mothers. But also you could be asking tell me the Ram team average of maternal rams that breed. So two things that you could do straight away in terms of that.
- [Woman] Two questions, maybe three and then we'll have to wrap it up.
- [Man] So just a very quick one, I ordered the cards three or four months ago, have been seen, they're still alright to do it.
- [Instructor] You haven't put it on them?
- [Man] No, no, I haven't collect it.
- [Instructor] No problem, they last forever.
- [Man] Hey, just wondering, when you do that flock profile, is that comparing most of the data getting compared to when it comes from status?
- [Instructor] Yeah so that's one of the, you're comparing yourself to a stud and individual animals within a stud. So we've got that huge range there. So it's quite a harsh judge. We are gonna change to comparing it to the average of studs so flock average instead of individual animal average and it will be a fair comparison and we'll be sending a letter out about that shortly.
- [Man] When's that gonna occur, sorry.
- [Instructor] When is that gonna come? - Yeah. - In the next couple weeks, we're going to make that change.
- [Narrator] Authorised by Victorian Government, One Treasury Place, Melbourne.
Sheep breeding equivalents for pasture species
Andrew Speirs, consultant with Meridian, explains how national pasture variety trials can assist farmers make decisions on what pasture species to sew (based on seasonal production and persistence) for their environment.
- - Okay, my name is Andrew Speirs from Meridian Agriculture. I've been involved in the PTN, the Pasture Trial Network variety evaluations, which started in 2012. The plots we're gonna look at were sowed in 2012. We're looking at them now. So they've had three years of mowing, two years of grazing by animals. Not under huge pressure, but some grazing with animals. So we'll start with the ryegrasses first. This is AR1, Avalon AR1. Just showing that we've lost a large number of plants over time with that. Base perennial ryegrass, AR37. More acceptable plant numbers but we still lost at least half of them. Victorian perennial, again not a lot of plants left in that after the five years. We'll also show you the persistence counts at the end of 2016, which are a group of half a dozen slides. So you can actually look at these cultivars the whole trial. So it's the Victorian perennial ryegrass without endophyte Victorian perennial has not persisted, and been taken over by weeds. Clearly seeing a difference in persistence based on the endophyte-type, and presence or absence. So in our environment, endophyte plays a role in persistence keeping pests away, and also managing heat stress. At the same site, we also had cocksfoot. So we had a range of varieties between summer active and summer dormant varieties. SF is a summer active variety. We've really lost most of the plants in there. All we've got left is a bit of hanging weight really, and a couple of cocksfoot plants. So again, the site wasn't overly fertile. It had an autumn P of 15 but we certainly didn't overdo the phosphorus inputs. Currie cocksfoot, again much, much more plant, many more plants persisting, and a variety that did quite well both in dry matter, and persistence. Tall fescues, again we had a range of summer active and winter active varieties. Tower persisted okay but something like Advance MaxP, which is no longer on the market because of there's an XP in the fight, but persisted very well. So again, giving a highlight that endophyte is important in regards to plant productivity and persistence but you can't have animal health issues with those endophytes. So understanding which endophyte you got is important. We also had Phalarises in the site. Holdfast GT, and Sirosa. Both have performed quite well in the site. Overall the Phalarises were quite productive and persistent. So we've titled it Sheep breeding Equivalents for Pastures. Really, what we're looking for is to at least, we're certainly nowhere near to the point of ISP these, where we've got the really good accuracy, and we've got 20 traits that we can work on. So I'm sorry Stephen. But we're a long way further advanced than we were five, six, or seven years ago. So it is very much a work in progress. Part of what we'll finish with is getting your input as to how we can take that further. So if you can participate in at the end, that will be good. The Casterton site is the one that I'll do most of my talking about. There's actually a group of cultivars at the back that we've actually come at, been dug up and come out of that trial site. So there's some ryegrasses there that really there's nothing much left. There's a couple of cocksfoots where there's nothing much left. This big va-rash in the ryegrasses. Then you have Phalarises and fescues as well. That just gives you a bit of idea of where they are, and what they are. Okay, I think this might tend to look a little bit weird but really what we're trying to do with the pasture varieties is find out who has got pants on and who hasn't. So which ones are we gonna keep? And which ones are we gonna put in the cupboard, or say, no, no, you need to get back round behind the team. So we're just trying to work out, it's more important to work out, I think, the cultivars that aren't doing the job for us. Then you choose out of the ones that are suitable 'cause at the moment, how many perennial ryegrasses are on the market? 35, 40, something like that sort of mark. By model will be brilliant but they might not as well, and for your environment, and your management. Prior to 1996, there was merit testing by the DPI, and a pretty good product trial process that would actually give you a recommendation, none only by variety, but by rainfall and the sowing rate. A lot of that data had stood the test of time but their varieties have moved on from there. There hasn't been anything in that interim period. So really, up until that 2014, it was trust us or look at the glossy brochure that's fall out of The Weekly Times this week. But next week, there's another one that's better. Now how do we sort that out? So, and then came along, sorry the PVTN, and that should say PTN. So the Pasture Variety Trial Network was a process between MLA and the seed industry to get everybody together, all the seed companies together, and agree to have trial all there so they could put in any variety of Phalaris, fescue, cocksfoot, all the grasses supplied and loosen at no charge. So MLA were paying for them. They worked through with the seed industry. This is how we're gonna assess them. But it was at no cost to the seed industry. So the PTN stuff was all funded by our levy pay at MLA funding but it got all of those varieties interchanged, and it got everybody from the seed industry exposed to it but no actual monetary cost to them. They contributed their varieties to there. Excuse me. So the PVTN is very much was an evidence based system, very credible. All of those six sites were run by independent people. Nobody who was actually working for a seed company. Dave Harbes, for example round the one in orange, myself, and Paul, and others had the one at Casterton. So they're all by people that weren't directly employed by the seed industry. They are independently audited by a Kiwi crew that have got merit testing up and going, and had a bit of protocol for that as well. So you had somebody completely outside coming, having a look at what we'd done. That's how that section of it worked. They were sown in 2011 and '12 from basically ran around all the way through to Cressy in Tasmania, those six sites. Then the PTN started. So that the MLA formed from the donor company from the MLA was formed a partnership between the seed industry and the MLA. From 2014 on, all the varieties are, half the money is paid by the seed company. The other half is by the donor company. So the seed company is still, is paying but not a full rate. At this stage, we changed from the PVTN we knew all the lines. So all the lines were known. PTN, and this will change 'cause we realise that we're big boys and girls, and we can play nicely. At this stage, they're blind. So you don't actually know what cultivars you've got but I think that's everybody's getting a lot more trust in each other, and understands that if I decide to give one variety a hard time at my site. Almost four other sites across the country. I'll get the place explain us to why did that one performed badly at my site. So your own credibility's at risk playing those games. So I think that'll sort itself out. 2015, with another seven sites established. So we're looking at annual ryegrasses, Italians, a lot of perennial ryegrass and fescues in that year. 2017, a much bigger spread of species. Sorry, ? - [Member Of Audience] Not yours, go on. - [Andrew] 2018 has seen another big lot of trials in. Overall, we've got 2012 trials with 31 sites across the Eastern seaboard, which is great. So perhaps obviously, we gotta sow the sites to start with. The trials are inspected at emergence, and again into the first year, and then they ordered it annually from there. They're analysed by one statistician. So again, everything is going through the one drafting gate consistently. Currently, the establishment yield isn't reported. I think you need to, I'd like to see that be reported. So you've got some idea how long before you're able to graze some of these cultivars 'cause there's big difference in that. All the cuts are grouped into seasons. So you've got a bit of an idea of what pasture cure you've got. Then they're reported through the seed companies. Then they end up on the MLA site. Everybody signed the agreement that, once your variety is in there, you cannot take it out. So if it's not performing very well, you have to, it has to go through the motion. So it really, again it's back to has it got pants on or not? So this is the PTN website on the MLA site. That's what you'll see on the front page. You can go in by region or you can go and look at all the trials on one species. Okay, this is how some of the data's presented in two ways. It's either in this other way or as a column graph. All the data is presented with a significance level to it as well. So what we're working on here is the 5% significance level. So for example here, Flecha and Barnaby fescue which is actually that's been pulled from the market because of a wild type endophyte that's in it but it was in the Casterton site. Phase two for autumn data are significantly better, 95, so significance level of 5% means 95% of the time, they are significantly better than cultivars of a different colour. So if we go down to the orange ones for example, Dovey and SF Royal, only 5% of the time they will be better than Dovey and Royal. Does that make sense? So that's hey, you can look at the data and use it with some real confidence. Right hand side, the other piece of information you've got is the persistence. So that persistence is measured. We've got 12 measures of internal rows. So it's six rows wide. We're measuring the internal fall by three measures. So it gives you twelve measures of row. Presence of a plant every five centimetres is how it was counted. So you've got some here that are sort of 98% fletcher. So virtually every square there is a plant, whereas festival after three years is only 50% of those squares with a plant in them. Okay, bearing in mind, this haven't been grazed at this stage. So haven't seen a hoof. All it's seen are all mild. This is data that's not yet available but again I think this data goes back to the seed companies annually. It has had trials progressing. So perennials, the data doesn't get published until there's three years of data on that site. So but here, this is the Birregurra site. Perennial ryegrasses sown in autumn 2016. That photo's the first week of May this year. We've only got three or four cultivars that are any good. So no cocktail for this. It was a dry summer, yes. We might have had transientup there. But overall, Birregurra is the home of ryegrass seed production. So this, I think really positively, this is like for the grain industry when the canola variety doesn't perform gets put up in lights fairly quickly, and the breeders go, "Oops, we better go and find something else." So for a long time, this pressure hasn't been going back to the seed companies, where it is now. So I think that will really benefit us in being able to get something that's useful for us. Quite intriguingly, these are not short season ryegrasses that are surviving either. They're more of the long season Hispanic types. Again, that's just showing you where those six major sites were originally. This is the Casterton site, , the Cornish family. Gives you a bit of an idea what it looked like pre-sowing. It had five years of cropping prior to this. So we've been able to, one of the other tricks is try, especially with sub-clover, try to find a site that hasn't got a background of sub-clover to be able to work with. Pretty easy to find a grass right? But somewhere where you can grow some subs, often quite hard. Just give you some photos of the first year of establishment, just showing that we, you know, with all of that grasses we had the rice field. Some of us like curve but they're all there. The perennial ryegrasses in year two. Again, they are just really performing well. Again, with the protocol is that the sub-clover has to be sprayed out of the grasses, so the Broadleaves, and so they're nitrogen-fed. So the tile drawn map is different because one, they've been hit with herbicides. So some of your autumn growth is staggered because you've given them a bit of an insult herbicide wise, and you're keeping 'em up with your. So by May, so into the third year, we've actually got a number of cultivars here starting to fall out quite dramatically. The other thing is that I think if we were grazing these plots or some of these cultivars, we would kill 'em in the autumn as well because they're pretty weak . So we give that a haircut, we give that a haircut. It doesn't hurt anything. Gradually, that plant sort of recovers a bit for three years. Whereas if we put stock on it, it would've had the whole thing mowed out. Phalaris site at the end of year one. Plots, year two. The fescues again. One can be a bit finicky to get established so we really did get good establishment of all of them. So what I'm trying to say is that everything was there to start with so the finishers also will show you our results, stuff actually dying. Fescues in '13. So we're already started to see a bit of culling. The lessons which Allan will talk to later this afternoon, and the sub-clovers have established fairly well here as well. This is the other way that data presented is in a bar graph by season, okay, and all the varieties' names. Here you can also, at the site, you can go and view site information. So that will give you the soil test annually. Soil test results, what herbicides have gone over the site, and rainfall. So currently, years two and three, rainfall data, all the data's there. But the dry matter production for years two and three are combined into that. So you see average of '13 and '14 data. The fescue data. The Phalaris data here again, and again from the point of view of Sirosa. So they won the day for winter production. So it's significantly better than these others here. But what else might you want to know about the Phalaris variety if you're gonna sow it. You want production and persistence. So something like Sirosa is very erect. So is Advanced AT. So taller, and huge amounts of aluminium, and a really important plant for that area but you need to know that you can't flog it. So it needs to be managed differently to something like Holdfast GT, which was Richard Carleton has selected as a grazing tolerant Phalaris that can't be abused. The sub-clovers again. ... probably our biggest challenge but again there's two cultivars of sub. There's this another one that's really not competing at. Yeah just called a different thing, Putting this photo up just to show you that we kept the inter-row clean so that we didn't have cross movement of sub varieties crawling into next door. This is one not from the PVTN but this is actually heritage trial, oops sorry. A heritage trial that I had sown in 2010. Again in Western Victoria. We had 20 perennial ryegrasses there, and we managed to kill everyone of them as well. We baited for crickets. We had mice in the site. We baited for them. But you can see there the actual sowing rise of the perennial ryegrass. So apart from a little bit of ceiling recruitment, even weeds gone out of that environment. But Phalaris and the two fescues had just happened that that photo had the three together. So it was. We had two other fescues that survived fairly well as well. Interestingly, from a dry matter point of view, Banquet II but you've also got Holdfast GT in there. With the bulk of the ryegrasses producing a similar amount of dry matter in year one. So yeah, sometimes people say, "We never get any grazing off Phalaris in year one." That was sown last week of May, first week of June. They're quite similar. I think this is part of the reason for some of the heavy soils, where we're losing premium ryegrasses because the physical cracking and tearing of that root system. That's an extreme. Yeah, we actually had to take care. But when we see heavy soils cracking like that, we're doing a fair bit of damage to root systems underneath. Here's to pointing in to what we got to. So at the end of the trial, the persistence of the ryegrasses. Again, light grazing because you've got early mid and light Phalaris. So as soon as you've got a variety that you can go up to hit its ability drops but you can't physically push the whole site hard enough to knock that down. So some grazing but wouldn't say it's being flogged. Though we've got a lot of varieties there, over and under 30% presence after five years. Paul?
- [Paul] Just grazing .. for how you mentioned that grazing was right.
- [Andrew] Grazing there was based on, again you've got ...in your three leaf but we were trying to go in at about 2.5 time coming out of it at about 1,200. But hard to do because of that .. maturity. That's what we're trying to do. Cocksfoot huge .. and persistence there. We could see them in YouTube. You just hit .. is just full and you have it really quickly. Phalarises, as you'd expect, fair bit better. Tall fescues again a huge range. Again, the fescues are probably not on the best site that prefer much weight-er site but all the cultivars had to be in the one tank. All the varieties had to be in one spot. That gives you an overview of the site. So the sub-clovers were there, lucernes there. There are 30 perennial ryegrasses, phalaris, cockfoots and fescues. That is the homepage for the Pasture Trial Network. You can find it from there. A couple of people to thank. Mrs. Cornish is on the right. The lady, yeah, getting on your knees just a little bit. But her vision and what she's been able to do over the last few years is incredible, and just thirst for knowledge. So it doesn't matter how old you are, it's just, that's the attitude from here up. She's quite an inspiration. I'll like to thank acknowledge all of these people, staff that helped with the site from Meridian. But I think MLA, and specifically some of these people in the seed industry here have fought really hard to actually get our programme together. It's not perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than what we had. So again, we'll go through some questions on the right now to help get some more feedback. But I think they are to be commended for what they've done to this point.
- [Narrator] Authorised by Victorian government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.
Applying the lessons from lifetime maternal trials
Tim Leeming, producer and consultant from Pigeon Ponds, outlines his system for optimising ewe and lamb performance by using single cycle mating.
- - [Gervaise] Tim's a sheep producer based down at Pigeon Ponds north of Hamilton, and Tim's also got his own BestWool BestLamb group, so he coordinates BestWool BestLamb group as well. He's a regional chair of the Southern Australian Meat Research Council for the Western district, and Tim's talking about the work that he's done on his own property in regards to lamb survival and animal welfare.
- [Tim] Thanks, Gervaise So I'm a lot older than that photo, so we better update that. Get away from that. Yeah so what I'm gonna talk to you today about is just a system that we've created I suppose over time, over 20 years of farming. Anyway, we'll press on, but I reckon we're probably on to something. So I farm with my wife Georgie, who's busy working today while I'm gallivanting around the place, and we've got a livestock manager, Bowes Kelly, who has been with us for the last sort of 12 months. As Gervaise said, we're southwest Victoria, 600 mil rainfall and about 8,500 composite self-replacing sheep. We've bought a fair bit of country over the years. There's just a bit of the map of the farms. That's the home block, the original sort of block that I grew up on and this is the country that we have purchased since 2011. One thing that you might notice on there is our paddock size. We've just done about 100 kilometres of fencing in the last six years. We're not adverse to putting fences in. We've got fairly undulating country and we need to address the soil types. It's great hearing some of the talks this morning. I've got 20 years of diaries that will tell you that mob size is extremely important to twin lamb survival and I've noticed those differences over leasing country and owning country, but we'll get on to that. So it's just some of the things that I suppose have been defining things that we've done over the years in my farming life and one of the big things I suppose was when I first came home to the farm, I really like data and Lambplan had started and I've never bought a ram in my life without data on it. A fellow in here, Johnny Keilor, he was a big inspiration in those early years and got me really interested in buying animals that were performance recorded. Some of the things that we implemented over the years, pregnancy scanning in 1995 and actually the first year we only did wet and drys and from 1996 onwards, we've been scanning for multiples. The last 10 years we've been isolating triplets as well. Ceased mulesing. We had a self-replacing meat sheep flock. We didn't think it was necessary to mules sheep and we ceased that in 1996. Weaning was another defining time. We used to sell suckers straight off mum and weaning was really, really important we found for ewe recovery and one of the things that we did notice in the early years of scanning is that some ewes would twin one year and then they'd only go single the next year. We didn't allow that time for that ewe to recover. So weaning in the first couple of years when you're inexperienced at weaning it was a bit traumatic as probably a lot of you reflect, but once you learn a few tricks of the trade you get the ewes a hell of a long way away from the lambs. It seems to work pretty well. Really started to see the differences in leasing. We started leasing a lot of country and had substandard pastures, but big, big mobs and big paddocks and we really noticed the difference in mob size. Started joining ewe lambs in '07. We didn't really know what we were doing in those early years, but we've been having some really, really good results in hitting targets recently. Then we were really chasing growth and we all were told we needed lean lamb in those early days and we ended up getting sheep that were really, really big and very lean and fast growing and being a person that used to shear sheep for about five years at home to supplement my farm income in the early days, it wasn't much fun dragging out a 100 kilo ewes. So we sort of started to use our genetics a little bit differently and concentrating on a lower standard reference weight and putting fat and muscle in our sheep from around the 2008 period. That was in result of having failed springs and having lambs that were probably hitting the weight specs, but they weren't hitting the fat score specs. We wanted a sheep that was resilient to those tough seasons and able to reproduce and conceive twins the following year after a tough spring. So we progressed down to 2010 and that's when we started with six-week lambings up here in the early years, and then we started to play around with, I think we started five-week joinings in around early 2000s and then 2010 we started going down to four-week joinings and I'll allude to what we'll do further down the track. 2014 and 2015 we were lucky enough to be assigned in the Maternals Project. We wanted to find out information about maternal sheep. A lot of the lifetime wool research was all done on Marino sheep and we had Lifetime Ewe as one of the most successful extension programmes out there, but we didn't have a lot of data on actual maternal meat sheep and how they reacted to different pastures and different condition scores and lamb survival and that sort of thing. So in that first year we had sheep that had high, medium and quite low and alarming condition scores and we lambed them on all 1,000 kilos of feed and then we looked at the reactions of what our twin and single survival was. We also looked at the impact of our birth weight, but also the growth rate of those lambs that were out of all these ewes that were 3.6 condition score up the top end, down to 2.6 down the bottom end. Then we looked at the ewe recovery and the carry over reproduction of those ewes. So what are the impacts if we had ewes in really light conditions, but we lambed them on good feed, what was the impacts on all these things. The second year of the project was looking at we had high and low condition score sheep, but we lambed them on all these different pasture covers from 700 kilos, and I can tell you now the 700 kilos turned into 400 very quickly, and all the way up to 2,000 kilos. What we found was some of those old recommendations out of things like ProGraze and stuff, 14-1500 kilos was basically the optimum for growth rates in our lambs, but we did notice that these these maternal sheep that we had designed were amazing how they could still perform and really one of the main things we noticed is even though these low condition score sheep had lambs that were a little bit lighter, the difference in that first year was that really the birth weight was the only difference in the lambs, so if we had a decent amount of feed and even if the ewe was light as opposed to heavy, the only difference was actually the lamb, instead of being four kilos, it was five kilos. That kilo difference went all the way to weaning. So that was quite interesting that we could have a light ewe and present a lot of good pasture and it would perform, thosewould perform. So what have we learnt? What does it all mean? Where do we get to? What enables us to optimise our production? So we learnt a lot. Ewe survival I think is really underrated and we can't have great lamb survival unless we've got great ewe survival. It sort of goes hand-in-hand. One of the things that's really been pertinent to us and to me is being able to select the right paddocks to get the right outcomes with lamb survival. We knew that, as I said before, I've got diaries that'll tell you that smaller mob size works for multiple rearing ewes. We also know that from those projects and a lot of research over many, many years that providing that right amount of feed at the birth site, especially for twin bearing and really everything's about twins in this talk. That's where our big gains and losses are. We know that we want decent feed quality at late pregnancy and early lactation, and we also want to hit those targets with our condition scores of our sheep. We don't want them too fat so we've got dystocia issues with singles. We certainly don't want them too fat with twins either too because we've got maintenance issues with cast ewes flat on their back, but we also don't want them too light. So how do we achieve all of these targets? This is how we do it. Now I'm happy to stand here today and say I reckon in 20 years' time that if you want to be progressive in handling sheep and hitting those targets, you will all be lambing on single cycles. That's what I reckon. I'm happy for people to argue with me. Now there's earlies and lates. Some of you in the room might have done earlies and lates. I reckon earlies and lates is good, but your chest board's full. You've got no room to move. Okay. You need definitive gaps between your lambings. So if we're gonna use our best paddocks multiple times, how do we do it when the early ones haven't finished and the late ones have started? That's where that earlies and lates I think has got a bit of an issue, is that your chest board's full, you've got all your bases loaded and you've got no flexibility. So what we've done is we went originally, as I've said, six weeks, five weeks, four weeks, and now for the last three year we've been lambing in single cycles, so we only join for 17 days. So we need to get a lot more precision. We know that, and these figures are just what, this is on my farm, that's where we lose most of our ewes and lambs in that late pregnancy and early lactation. We need to hit the target. Anyone, hands up you put a crop in here. Most of you croppers have got GPSes, you know 2.5 centimetre accuracy. It's precision farming, right? How about in the sheep industry? We've been bloody putting rams out for five or six weeks for bloody 40, 50 years doing exactly the same thing and we've got pregnancy scanning technology and we're not utilising it to its full extent. So this is the paddock data that we collect. It's all about, we've heard a bit about it this morning, the importance of data and making decisions based on data. These are our twinning paddocks from last year. So we've got the same paddocks down here. We've got the area. It's very hard to see, so I won't expect you to see them. How long they're in those paddocks for 20 days, the number of head, how many kilos are in that paddock, the stocking rate, expected pasture growth, and I should have changed that 'cause that's a bit high, intake and then how much pasture we expect at the end. Then we analyse, we count basically the live lambs so we know exactly how many foetuses are in the cell and they we count those lambs out before lamb marking and we can get actually data. So we've got six lambings worth of data. We just started lambing two days ago and we can actually assess paddocks on their worth whether they're suitable shelter, suitable privacy, is it the right size, is it the right paddock for those different classes of stock. So we've got simple Excel spreadsheets. This is a twin one. We've got a single one and a triplet one, and we have them for our three different lambings during the year. So this is analysing your results at the end of the year. We start off with the amount of foetuses, this is how many we marked. Last year we had a pretty wet year in 2017 and we achieved a 91.2% survival with our adult ewes on that particular farm. So the other things that we analyse there, 1.2% ewe mortality. Ewe mortality obviously as I said before super important if we're gonna get great lamb survival. So this is our scanning information for this year. This figure here is the amount of foetuses that we've got to manage this year. I don't give a rats what your scanning percentage is, I don't like cheap pub talk. Guess what? I scanned 100-90%, that's the new brag in the industry now. It used to be your lambing percentage, now it's moved to your scanning percentage. The figure back here before, that 91.2%, that's your bragging percentage. If we were talking about social licence and our ability to manage sheep and be proactive in the animal welfare space that's your brag, and that brag there, that's what you hang your hat on. That's what you write up, it's like the shearing tally on the number one stand. You got your gun shearer, he puts his tally down every year. That's what we should be doing in our wool sheds is writing this is the total amount of feed, this is what we've got to manage and this is how well I did. So that's us this year. We're really blessed on the spring that we had last year. We're 1.76 in lamb, we scanned 170 this year. That's significantly up on last year. Last we were 1.55 in lamb and it was simply we were 0.3 of a condition score heavier when the rams went out this year to last year. That's why we've got more foetuses on board, and that came for free because we had a big spring. The years before sometimes you build up condition over a number of years. We had 2014, 2015 was tough, 2016 for us in our neck of the woods was the wettest winter on record. It was another tough year, but it was the other way round. 2017 was the best year I've ever farmed in my life. Best break in 40 years, awesome. And we banked it. We really banked it. 0.21 foetuses per ewe up on the previous year. So that's the best since 2011 for our business where we had 1.83 foetuses per ewe. Anyway, I'm banging on. So the importance, the wisest system single cycling I reckon the way of the future is that we can multiply use the best paddocks on your farm a number of times. Instead of having one big lambing, where we spread all the mobs out and go good luck girls, I know you got twins, but you're going on that hill. I'm sorry but I've just gotta put you there. That's not good enough. So let's think about it a bit more strategically. So we've got better efficacy in our animal health. Vaccines only last six weeks. So we do a pre-lambing vaccine of a ewe and if we're lambing for six weeks and we settle the ewes down, maybe we vaccinate two weeks before we start lambing, it might be eight weeks by the time we mark the lambs and give those lambs their first actual vaccine. So that coverage in the ewe is worn off. As is the paddock that we put the ewes in with 1,500 kilos of feed, eight weeks' time, guess what? If we're optimising stocking rate I bet you it's probably more closer down to 1,000 or 900, and you're better farmers than me if you can achieve 1,500 kilos right the way through of a five-week lambing. So marking date, lamb marking contractors and the people that catch your lambs and lamb marking, love ya if you've got lambs that are only three weeks old to pick up and put in the cradle. And there's probably, Joan Lloyd was speaking this morning about the impact of growth rate on lambs and stuff, I think marking smaller lambs there is definitely benefits in that instead of those big thumping lambs that we throw on the cradle and they get the hell knocked out of them when you put a ring on them. So weaning date is really accurate. Marketing your lambs, they're all like peas in a pod. Ewe recovery is better, so if we got a better weaning date and we're not waiting for those last tail-end lambs to lamb and the ewes are looking a bit lean, sometimes that's too late for those ewes to recover in a tough season. Puberty date for ewe lambs, that's also another big bonus. - [Male] Can I just ask a question there? Do you use teasers? - [Tim] Yeah I do. There's a lot of detail I can't fit in this 20 minutes, but yeah we do use teasers for two weeks, but we'll have time for questions at the end. So I'm just gonna play a little clip, we're doing an MDC project at the moment on this process and trying to highlight I suppose the benefits of using this system. So I'll jabber along here. This is Cobbity and Awaiti which is some properties we bought a few years ago. Fairly undulating. So it's got some of the worst lambing paddocks in Australia and it's got some of the best ones. So pretty bare hills and about 300 metres about sea level and a lot of severe windchill can hit them. So in those we just don't lamb in those paddocks, simple as that. So we use those gullys. A lot of those gullys some of the old blokes around my area said oh you don't wanna lamb down there the foxes will eat all your lambs. Well yeah, that's bullshit. We're pretty strategic, we do a lot of dry sowing. This is some renovation. So spring sowing rate that we put winter roo oats in. We do use urea to help hit targets if we need to. The big key is subdividing those paddocks into smaller ones. So that's a 15 hectare paddock that we've chopped into three 5 hectare paddocks just with reels and hot tapes. A little bit of effort, but takes no time at all. We put triple bearing ewes and I think our average mob size for triplets this year is about 13 and we just jam them in those riparian zones. Now you can't do that with all breed types either, by the way, I'll put a caveat on that. And super business really important for us too. So we'll have a lot of those table lands with no stock in them. We go around our twin bearing ewes daily 'cause they're the ones where we have our big wins and losses. And yeah, as I said we try and minimise those mob sizes as much as we can. So we're constantly building twin paddocks and renovating those gully regions. Anyway, that's it.
- [Female] It's on that?
- [Tim] The question was using the hot tapes for lambing. So I reckon using hot tapes for lambing over a five- or six-week lambing would be bloody chaos, but because our ewes waddle in slowly and they're fully pregnant and we've got exactly the same amount of feed on offer on one side of the hot wire as the other and because we have our two tapes that are actually more about keeping the ewe from getting into a bigger mob, the lambs can go backwards and forwards quite easily underneath those tapes.
- [Female] So you probably got
- [Tim] Yeah, the bottom one's probably 300 to 400 off the deck. So we don't have any problems with that.
- [Female] Why don't you just take the ewes away?
- [Tim] Yeah, we use tape on reels. So yeah I didn't have a close up of that. Yeah, so we'll use them three times for our three different lambings. We reel the reels in and we'll go in with, we just started lambing, we've got 17 days. As soon as the last lamb's born, we'll start canning those lambs out and we'll put three or four mobs into one and put them on a table land. Once a lambs two days old, it's pretty much indestructible. And then we can reel those tapes in and we've eaten our wedge down a bit, we'll go down with Pro-gib and try and crank out another two or 300 kilos before our next lamb. So we've got a 20 day gap for our next lambing.
- [Female] What lamb joining percentage are you using over 17 days?
- [Tim] As high as we can. We happen to be a stud so we've got a fair few rams lambs around, but 2-3%, just a bit more concentration there.
- [Female] And what sort of wet and dry scanning are you getting after 17 days joining?
- [Tim] We're varied from 72% to 83% in the three years that we've done it. So we teased with vasectomized rams for two weeks, we take them out at about 1%, 1.5% teasers, and then we hit about 2-2.5% of rams for 17 days. At our first scan, so we'll scan as normal, and we'll have anywhere between 28, so far, 28% to 17% dry, but they've already joined again. So the scanner will go I can see some activity there, but he just treats them all as dry. So the system we do over 5 or 6,000 ewes we might scan another 800 more ewes than we normally would do on a five-week joining, but that's so 800 ewes it's stuff all. 1,500 bucks in your time and the scanner's money. Yep?
- [Male] I don't quite understand your cycles. I understand single cycle lambs. So you join for one cycle, 17 days. You then join again?
- [Tim] Yep.
- [Male] How much later?
- [Tim] 20 days later.
- [Male] How do you know which ewes are already in lamb?
- [Tim] You join everything again, but with a lot less rams. So you already know that you've got 70%, 75% in lamb so you can go in with probably less than 1%. We happen to have a few rams around, so we join them. So you're covering your backside.
- [Male] Yeah, yeah, so you scan twice or scan once? - [Tim] No, no we scan three times. We actually scan no more times than we normally would. We always had a double lambing so we join new lambs as well. So we're not scanning any more occasions, we've just got more drys in that first and second lambing. - [Male] You got a third time do you?
- [Tim] Yeah, we have ewe lambs. Lambing they start in mid-August, so we'll have a tidy-up. So some ewes, our youngest ewes, will be joined three times right? Our older ewes that lamb in August, they'll only get joined twice. And our ewe lambs they actually get joined for four weeks. So we don't do a single cycle with ewe lambs. We're running out of time basically.
- [Male] Authorised by Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.
Sheep breeding equivalents for legumes
Alan Humphries, South Australia, outlines legume (clovers and Lucerne) varieties and attributes to assist farmers make decisions on legume species selection for their environment.
- - [Presenter] Hello everyone, this session is focusing on pasture trial insights works from legume pasture selection. So we're very lucky to have Dr Alan Humphries residing here. He heads up the Feed and Forage Science Programme and is also one of the key drivers for the development of the lucerne varieties, SARDI grazer. So he's gonna talk to us about the MLA funded project Pasture variety trial network. which was an independent review around pasture varieties and that, so he's gonna focus on lucerne and legumes today and if anyone went to Andrew's talk this morning you won't miss that session. He just asks that you hold your questions till the end, so Alan dive into it, and then we can get into the questions.
- [Alan] Okay, so thank you, so as was said, we'll be actually covering some basic principles of lucerne and sub-clover variety selection and just touching on some of the management. So I want to start off with a sub type of production curve and this is data from the Evergraze site, in Hamilton. And what it really illustrates is a real boom and bust of production. We're getting almost all of our production it seems, actually in sort of spring and September. And then, taking off dramatically and having a very large feed deficit over the summer months. And then also a winter feed gap, depending on the time of the autumn season. So one of the things that I like to try and do, when I'm looking at varieties, or species is why is it actually flattening that curve. We're very restricted as it is, this last night where we go off the cliff, sits the timing that we have to send our lambs to market, it doesn't provide a lot of, well it locks us into a winter lambing pattern, doesn't provide a lot of options for finishing light lambs, or maintaining , fertility, or condition through summer. So to start off we've gotta talk about sub clover species and then I'll move onto lucerne. So, with the basics there are three different types of sub clover species, of sub species. There's subterraneums which are black-seeded, traditional types that we grow on well drained soils. And you'll note the pH range there, I'll come back to that later in my talk. The Yanninicums, the white seeded types, we grow on more local soils. And the Brachycalycinums that traditionally we've only been recommended for neutral alkaline soils. However, there's a variety in test over the last 10 years, has performed extremely well, on the complete range of soils where we grow subs. And it's kind of broken it down as a bit of a fallacy. The Brachys do have a couple of negative points however, they whilst they can be really high yielding and big lacy types, they have poor burr burial and a quite soft in the seed, and so they tend to not persist very well on a grazing site. The best we've seen out of sort of persistence for Antas and grazing systems, probably into the second year. There are however two new brachycalycinum varieties that hope to address this issue to some extent. So Mawson and Lofty that have come out of our programme, they have improved burr placement and higher hard seed levels compared to Antas, so considering that graft Antas has about 25% of it's burrs that it managed to bury, and Mowson and Lofty are over 50%, makes them easier to harvest, and makes them less vulnerable to grazing. Probably still not expecting these varieties to persist as well as the traditional subs, in a permanent pasture system. So two new yanninicum varieties, I want to point out a Monti and SF Rouse. They're bred for improved autumn and early winter production they total at five to 650 mil rainfall zone, with Monti being the earlier flowering variety in fact earliest flowering yan cultivar on the market and SF Rouse being a mid flowering variety. They both claim to produce around 40% more winter growth than Trikkala. And I know from the selection of why Monti was released, they actually did that over about nine sites in south west Victoria in the last south east to south Australia. However it's interesting for the PTN results that it didn't actually do that well. At the casting site. So I'll come back to that in a minute. Lastly, Tammin, this is a traditional sub variety and I wanted to bring that up in case there's people here, from a lot of rainfall areas, the true subs have really struggled in the river area district. Over the last 10 years, we've multiple droughts, just not rain hard soon enough. This is a very, this is quite a bit hard seed, it has dramatically high levels of hard seed compared to other sub climate varieties. It's aimed at low rainfall areas, it's developed out of west Australia, we'll just have to see how it goes here, it's too new to have results on. The other things that you could select in terms, this would probably be medics, so burr medics or barrel medics we've also shown to be moving into, to be quite fine to sort of 4.6 to 4.8, so doing better on acidic soils than previously thought. So the PTN results this is from Casterton, this was managed by Andrews Speirs, so it was this morning's speaker. And can see just a couple photos of the results, they looks like a pretty well manicured site. And if anything, this is probably the only criticism I have of the PTN system, these sites, sub clover sites, you know the big done fork raises, and they haven't actually been managed with stock at all. So all of the results you see, are actually from cuts of a lawnmower, they haven't actually had any stocking. And because of that, you know you can look at the results title, that you can see on the MI website, and if you didn't delve down and look at the varieties even more, you could make a pretty bad variety choice, so Antas looks, has sort of definitely higher yield. But as I mentioned before, it's the brachy, so I wouldn't select that variety for as a traditional permanent pasture legume. It's a, be a great option if you're rid of owning a paddock for a couple of years, and I have actually seen yields where that's twice as good as the other subs. I would probably turn to the other subs, I'd probably throw a blanket over everything on the left end side, there's all a bit about 10% each of them pull raising very well. So what I have found is that some of Andrew's comments to be probably more valuable or as valuable as the results. So, from April 2014, well Antas being a standout, you know not just good but standout winter and spring producer, and Leura producing well into summer. That's not actually reflected in the result there, 'cause this is an average over two seasons. And apparently that's one wet season and one dry season and so probably the average of that is we're not actually seeing the Leura was good at producing well into summer. From November 2014, Leura, Antas, Mintaro, Campeda, Napier having great autumn vigour compared to Urana, Bindoon which have poor autumn winter yield. I found that to be pretty useful. And in May 2015, those varieties again, having good competition with capeweed. So that's producing other things that I'd like to see. So, for, I just wanna take another step back, and actually move beyond sub clover and look at another clover species, so Bladder Clover, and the potential range that it might have for land production or for grazing general. So this is another area of seeded clover, so I guess similar to the brachys, you're actually grazing off the pods and the seeds for next generation. So wouldn't expect this to have a long, be a long persistent type. But it does have a really good advantage, in that it maintains high levels of digestibility or energy into the summer months. This is why I think it could be useful, particularly if you've got a paddock, and you're putting out some high grass, and you want it as a specialist paddock for finishing. So on this graph we've got dry‐matter digestibility, over time so first of all clovers in the spring, and then heading into summer. What we've got is so VFI is voluntary feeding intake, and the blue line here Antas, is the same as bladder clover in spring. But by the first of December it's dropped off quite dramatically. So on the bladder clover in December, and in fact maintaining well in December, sorry into January, that's completely, it's dead, there's no grain left on that at all, and yet, the sheep are still voluntary, anywhere, and it's still putting on positive So for this result, Antas is hovering around 55%, that'll be maintenance fee at best. They probably slightly lose your way, and the other on the scale, so like the yellow serradella. Well they're doing really poorly on that error too. Not wanting to add out the So that's a I think pretty interesting attribute, that we would possibly know just from looking at the variety without having done that. So in terms of the clover options summary, brachy's good short term season yields. Varieties like Campeda, Gosse, Riverina, Leura, Goulburn, proven across Victoria and do well in the PTN trials. New varieties such as Monti and SF Rouse, should offer increased winter production, most areas. Tammin for low rainfall environments, or potentially consider a burr medic or a barrel medic. I didn't get a chance, but it outlined early season balansa clovers like Fronier, get out of the ground exceptionally quickly, and could actually reduce the winter feed gap. And certainly people, dairy farmers in Warrnambool use Vetch for example as a high winter production legume as well. And lastly I just talked about Bladder Clover extending production summer. And now I want to talk about strategies on how to improve sub-clover production and one of the problems the industry has. So first of all, optimising soil fertility, probably known to most people, how important things like Phosphorus are, polygenes, Boron, Boron's been shown having to done with born deficiencies a problem having an impact on Nitrogen fixation, as well as Moly and Calcium. What I didn't expect is that there's been quite a large body of evidence showing that if you increase the pH from 4.4 up to 5.0 you're getting dramatic benefits to sub clover yield. That's something I wouldn't have expected. Think probably the most about sub clover production areas below pH 5.0 and probably south of 4.5. But they're getting a shift from 50% to 90% of it's production potential from going from that pH of 4.4 to 5.0. Probably the scary thing on this page, is that a survey was done by my colleague Ross Ballard, where they showed that 71% of sub clover pads have large populations of ineffective rhizobia. So yes, you do get good inoculation response, so when you inoculate in soil sub clover, the Nitrogen that form on the inoculum are the same. But in subsequent years, there's so much of a strong background, that that inoculum's then lost. And what we get is that some varieties, and this is York, have and this is, this is York growing a variety and the one of the left is almost dead. So it's still nodulating, and if you dig that up, you'll see lodges, you'll go, you'll be great, not a nodulation problem, but it's ineffectively nodulated. So we're not getting a good return, we're not getting good Nitrogen fixation. So that's something that we could actually breed for, and to start with, we see a bit of variability, so Campeda is an example, is a variety that actually, does a much better job of fixing in a broad range of backgrounds. Okay, so some management principles to that I'd like to just take the opportunity. So oestrogenic varieties, if you have identified this big area of Victoria there, there's some of these old varieties of oestrogenic compounds are still a problem. So consider cleaning them out, they can have a big impact on new fertility. Weed control, I like to recommend aiming to kill, not suppress, I've seen too many examples with even on my own parents farm, where they used to use MCPA, suppresses the cultivar, probably grazing so it works, but not completely. The subtype regenerates, flowers, sends off seed, and you still got the same problem next year. So I usemyself, had a bit of dye on them, cure. And if I do it early in the season, there's left bits in the grass, sometimes you get a massive impact in that year, and by using the chemical early in the season, you're having a less of an impact on actually Nitrogen fixation as well. But if you're getting in light, and you're only suppressing it, you're actually bumping off all the rhizobia as well so you're not getting a good effect. So, competition, you really need, so the way your paddy looks is really probably a reflection on how you graze it. You need enough intensity of grazing pressure that you're eating the weeds as well as the desirable species otherwise, of course the weeds gonna take over. And it's not the fact that we can't produce good varieties, it's just you're continually pounding and eating the clovers. And lastly, maintenance of sub clover. In the system, what I'd like to see more of, is people actually broadcasting clover and sub clover seeds with their fertiliser. So you're already going over to spread super, it's a very efficient way of actually putting some legume back into your pastures, as well as the cost of even, three kilogrammes of expensive sub clover seed might cost you $30 a hector, but it's still a very cheap way of renovating pasture. Okay, so I'll move on to lucerne now, I wanna just start off with looking at winter activity and how they impacts on varieties, essentially on what winter activity makes. So this is where I wanted to graph this plot one of my earlier plots, this plot here on the left, is actually Rich Donner plot, so it's still there, it's one of the last And so that's just the height and the growth in winter. So I wanna be a little bit more detailed. So what it means is, it comes from an American system of full dormancy. Their winters are a bit colder in general, than ours, so and they measure it in fall and we measure it in winter. My first of 10, roughly 10 inches tall, six to eight weeks after cutting and grazing in winter. And eight inches tall and six inches tall and so on. So that's what it means in summer, these varieties will be small differences, but they will be, they can potentially reach similar heights Okay, this is just a production curve or lucerne compared to rye grass and clover. But, and it's from Victorian data, which is why I've got it here. But I really wanted to focus just on the lucerne, which was the initial blue line. It was published here as viable, it's from work in the mid 90s and so the variety they used is one of the old ones that were recommended , and you have other things like WL species that were quite dormant. One of our sort of biggest achievements in the last 10 to 15 years for lucerne is getting a winter active seven to persist as well as the fours used to. So and what that means, is we're getting a massive increase in production in autumn and heading into winter. The old fours used to be very sensitive to decreasing daily. So even through it's still warm, in April, they would actually just shut up shop and stop growing, even March, so if we go just back to that photo. This photo's actually taken at the end of June, and so a 10, I think maybe that tall, it's probably three times bio mass there, in the end of June so lucerne is a winter dormant species in general, but because of good water production, and just having them sit there, can actually provide good feed going into winter. So how do you chose a winter activity for your system? Probably, no surprise after what I've just said, that the fives I rarely recommend. Now, and usually only for special hay production, probably someone that doesn't have animals, is one that make use of that autumn production, and early winter production. And it's largely because we're getting better assistance probably out of that new grazing tolerant sixes. Even on the hay cutting system. Than we were at a five, so we've just managed to improve the performance of the more retractive lucernes. So the sevens, multipurpose lucernes I still recommend for where you've got to a little more rotational grazing, and rotational grazing is still by far the best management strategy. Come back to that, and 10s for ever low rainfall environments where you want to maximise the winter production, 'cause you've got a winter dominant rainfall system. Or very intensive systems where you happy at three to six years. So it might be a dairy system, in competition with rye grass. So, I've mentioned breeding for grazing tolerance quite a bit, so I just wanted to show, this is actually how we've gone about selecting grazing tolerant plants. First of all we start establishing a nice looking trial for the first sort of six months, and then we imposed this sort of grazing management. So graze it flat to the boards, for over a year, I think that's two years, until the population crashes, and we're only left with the strongest, most grazing tolerant plants. Actually in this photo here, it should be taken off for a couple of weeks, because it was over Christmas break, so there's a little bit of grain on those rows, so I wasn't happy with that. So, but looking back now, it was pretty tough still. But certainly not recommend, this is a management practise but it can show how tough and resilient lucerne can be to withstand that kind of punishment, for often well over a year before the actually, be best populations crash. So, but what we're seeing is that trait, is trend sliding to actually on farm and real management so they stopped here, they reflect the average performance of these lines after four years, on farm sites, no fencing, Coolac, Cowra, Culcairn, Grenfall, Mingbool, Bendigo Timboon, Rochester, and Tintinarra. So these blue dots here to start with. Very traditional lines and grimes and what we expect to see is as winter activity increases, the systems decreases. The red dots have been selected for grazing tolerance, over multiple cycles. And one, we're actually getting a bit of a shift, of that slope of that line. So we're getting better persistence in more winter active material, and as you can see sort of rise that SARDI Grazer is down to GT5 in our trials pretty much across Australia. And an absolutely standout in terms of persistence. So if you have a farmer who is only gonna be happy if he gets 20 years out of it. I mean they've only been on the market for probably five, but they're the varieties to be selecting. So some tips now, for managing for good persistence. So it's recovery is the most important by far, it's not so much how long you graze it, but how, giving it a good recovery between grazing management. So short grazing rotations, are the most efficient. So one week, or even one hour. Dairy farmers, strip grazing, cows on there for maybe two hours, then they're moved on. It's classic like, chalk growing it as a crop, and cutting it, that can be the most productive method. But there are plenty of farmers getting more than 10 years out of grazing, 2012 plot dies, you know getting enough sheep on it just to get it down to the ground, and then giving a good recovery between spells. So and in grazing, maybe 25 days, and then giving it 25 to 35 recovery. Avoid multiple stresses. So things like competition, waterlogging, continuous grazing, acidic soils, lots of those in place have all those things. I reckon once you've got two or more of those things combined to stay in lots of trouble. In terms of growing lucerne in mixtures which is a pretty desirable thing to do, when you know for livestock production. And there really probably somebody talk about chicory, particularly for acidic soils, 'cause it's a fantastic leaf plant, that's all leaf, high digestibility and get really good growth rates. It does work pretty well with lucerne, deficiencies that does limit your home side choices a bit. But so lucerne in any mixture, sow in alternate rows, and if it's to difficult to modify, you see there are a number of these on our farm, even through we border to say that it can potentially do that, it takes a couple of hours, so we don't still. But sow in two different directions, so go over the paddy twice. Sow in one direction grasses that you can put them a bit deeper, and then sow you're lucernes on top, in a checkerboard the other way. And that just doesn't sound like much, but then you're not sowing thethe rye grass seed on top of the lucerne. And just that bit of space, makes a huge amount of difference for seeding competition. Once you've got lucerne grasses established, a hay cut in the spring is a really good option. To just bring everything back to ground level. It adds variety to field, and you've got tough teeth perennial grasses, actually getting high grazing intensity on them and getting them down to the boards in spring. Hay cutting does that for you, and then you'll find that from over summer months, lucerne compete, the rye grasses, So the lucerne gets an opportunity to dominate. And then of course in winter the grasses will come back and dominate. Depending on the the environment here the high rainfall area that will be the case, in a low rainfall area the trouble might be the lucerne dominating the grasses. If that's the problem, if the lucerne's dominating short in the grazing rotation, potentially add a bit of Nitrogen you can do some tricks like that, if the grass is dominating, lengthen the rotation, give the lucerne a chance to come up, shine it, actually cut it down hard, so if you just graze it with sheep, they'll utilise the lucerne down to the ground, but they'll leave over tunnelled or two of grass. So, this is just an example of flexible grazing management, so a dairy farm I think is still very applicable to sheep graze, so managed for the grasses in winter, on about 14 day grazing rotations, they're not that great for lucerne, not giving it much of a chance to recover in winter. But then in summer extending that out to 35 days, for the rotation, or there abouts, and so the lucerne then grows, it can dominate it can shag the grasses, and the lucerne's more productive in summer than any of the grass species anyway. So that system's actually working really quite well, that farm was getting seven, eight years out of this stand, he's at a sort of high rainfall system, he has a little bit of irrigation, but not a lot. Lucerne obviously adds a lot of value there too. Because a little bit of irrigation would go a long way, with lucerne. So that's a system that can work well. We're gonna finish up by talking about lucerne on acidic soils and this is a big topic but I've just got a couple of slides. I could easily talk for half an hour just on this. Lucerne can add value on acidic soils. To start off we've just released a new strand of lucerne that's becoming a valuable on lucerne now. And if the industry works well, if you're on acidic soils, your supplier will know that, and when you buy it it will automatically have this new strain on it. And SARDI's 702's available now. But it is available all the producers so it should come onto the other varieties in the future years. But what I want to point out, is they've only made a gap here, it's about .4 of pH, so considerably proven in other acidic soils. But what you get is here five around pH 4.5 or 4.4. 'Cause this is in solution, it curves at about 4.3 in soil. But it's really important if you're at that very low end of the scale, yes you can have lucerne and good for a couple of years, if you've got no nodulation, after two years, it'll actually use all the Nitrogen out of the soil, and it'll go hungry, and then you've got to really pull and wait till out really quickly. So, evidence of good lucerne ground for acidic soils. This is the average of four sites, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, two of those were in Ballina, pH 4.3 we still had an average of 10 tonne per hector which is a pretty decent yield, but by adding, adding some lime and getting the pH up to five, we actually got six tonne per hector. So pretty simple economics to know we got a extremely good return on investment of getting that pH up. And reducing a lot of the risks of other plants were nodulating now we're gonna get good persistence. Well pH five, yes, pH 4.3 not sure. So I've just about finished up here. I just wanted to show you some local results and giving you a majority lamb and sheep producers here. So this is the Bridgewater trial done in 2009. The last measurement was in 2016, it's an irrigated bay that's grown for hay in spring to summer. And then from early autumn to winter it's used to finish off lambs. And here's the results from that, after seven years. And as I was saying before, varieties that the grazing tone of varieties are steadying out, so SARDI grazer, the SARDI seven series two, those really selected for Victoria, so it's doing as well in stamina. Seven GT5's not in there, but seven GT6 doing also quite well. So I'll finish up there and take some questions, I do have more results in a handout that's by the door. And so average persistence from a range of sites, depending where you come from, heavily grazed, some normal and light grazed sites, so. I'll take some questions.
- [Participant] Just a question about acidity. What about, that's topsoil, what about subsoil, if you have an alkaline sub soil, because topsoil's acidic, once you get established lucernes.
- [Alan] Absolutely yeah.
- [Participant] It's not as good.
- [Alan] Yeah, so lucerne's pretty happy if part of the root system connects this alkali soil. It probably a little bit slower and a little bit lest reliable to establish if you have a nice beautiful pH. But you're right as soon as those roots hit alkali or neutral soil, they're green up, start forming, we had just a question first of all, I thought you were asking the same question, oh that's great. But whenever I study limes, the surface can have an impact as well. Good experience where that had a dramatic impact where it was a pH 4.2 sand. They've added limevariety, and the lucerne nitrated in the first two centimetres which the pH gone over five. The farmers did a soil test over the he'd only gone for 4.2 to 4.4 he said, most of thehas done quite well, but when they broke down the fractions, it actually made a big impact for the first couple centimetres, and the lucerne was taking advantage of that. So, yeah, lucerne can pretty much take advantage of that. - [Participant] Are there any other clover varieties that are more, that I suppose are tougher early on with MCPA?
- [Alan] Yeah, that's a good question. Not that I'm aware of. I am playing around with this at the moment, actually.
- [Participant] You probably mentioned it before but do I on MCPA?
- [Alan] Yeah, so I do that just at my own place. And I might go see if any and it kills it, so it's fantastic. But I'm not aware of differences between sub clover varieties however we do have a mutagenic population that we've created new types of chemical and we're trying to select for sub clover that just can tolerate huge because it is an issue, why if we had that we could clean out all of these ..... so it is, yeah it is an issue, so it's something that I'm aware of, been trying to work some things. But existing varieties, not sure.
- [Presenter] Got time for one more question.
- [Alan] Not sure about climate spaces as well, what that knowledge will be answers as tolerant.
- [Participant] Do you have evidence of success with broadcasting sub clover?
- [Alan] Do we have evidence of success of broadcasting sub clover? Not scientific evidence, no, but I know it's a practise that old timers used to do a lot more. And being basically a hobby farmer myself, I've had 20 acres and a bit that I lease, but I have actually seen so I've had really good success myself, broadcasting sub clover. I've had a lot of people since I've started talking about it come up and say, yeah we've done the whole farm withtwo years ago, and had a massive difference.
- [Participant] All sub clover?
- [Alan] All anecdotal, but, yeah, sub clover you know should do as well. I even had excellent results with chicory I know that wasn't your question, but two kilo of chicory, per hecatre, and massive difference. Yeah, it was almost too thick.
- [Participant] When you said before sowing lucerne with grasses. Are you aware of grasses taking over, is it when you said before are you still getting persistence in your lucerne when you're co planting with grasses as well. Or you getting better persistence?
- [Alan] Yeah, you can it is more difficult, but so, certainly we've had lots of work on trials with farms where they have had good persistence but doing things like cutting the high in spring have turned things around. So getting the grasses back to the boards, in spring so they don't over dominate and kill the lucerne. And manage, and it also helps to manage the selected grades too, so I think management comes down to a lot, but probably you might be a limit of the so I a pocket .......about eight years in the lucernemixture which is sort of the one I was referring to. But it looks the lucerne was performing really poorly for the first couple of years, until he started doing that.
- [Presenter] OK, can you put your hands together for Alan?
- [Announcer] Authorised by Victorian Government One Treasury Place, Melbourne.
Feed assessment guides – Tools to determine grazing strategies for cropping livestock systems
Some feed assessment tools have been developed by farmer groups to specifically help farmers in the mixed farming zones manage grazing systems. Alison Frischke, Birchip Cropping Group outlines their guide for grazing crops and David Drage (with Steve Cotton) from BestwoolBestlamb group outline their FOO guide for crops in the low/medium rainfall environment.
- - [Alison] Thank you very much. We've been grazing crops for a long time now, since back in the 1930s. A lot of it was just oats or opportunistic grazing in paddocks. Rather than something sown specifically for grazing back at that time, cereal crops. But at the time we've got, winter wheats have been developed over the last, probably 30 years, and now we have winter canola and we've been playing around with grazing spring crops as well but it's just been hard to make recommendations on how to manage those crops, but we've pulled together some information in here that helped make those decisions. So the information was generated from the Grain & Graze programme in this book, which ran from 2003. Here's just a map showing the regions over time. After 2016, with a variety of funding bodies over that time. And, there were the three main sections to it. One was about feed base, one was more about the system and the rotations, and another one was about managing risk and making decisions. So I'll tell you about the book. The book's divided into, it takes you through the journey, I suppose, firstly considering about the whole system. What are the opportunities and potential downsides to grazing the crop, how to grow the crop, grazing management, and some of those other considerations. If we have a look at the livestock operation, some of the values are filling the feed gap, allowing the pastures to build up, place to park stock while you're spraying, and worm-free paddocks. Some of the costs, you might have to put to mineral supps out, be careful with ewes late pregnancy, and using fencing, temporary fencing. And then there's the ones to the cropping side as well. So value, you can use it to manage large canopies and reduce lodging, and the like, you avoid the frost 'cause it would delay maturity. And some of the costs, so you gotta be careful about managing that grain yield penalty, if that's what important to your system. And also the whole farm value, so you can use it to increase your overall profitability. You may be able to sow small crop or run small stock, but it's all about that balance. Using all the trial results, we put 'em into a big database and then punched out some graphs, and so here's wheat and barley at six and five weeks, and then at nine weeks, and it shows how much feed can be generated, but also, the range in that feed availability. So, it's part of managing your risk, I suppose, You can have an average value, but actually it can be quite a broad range depending on your seed and, that's for a low rain area. And then there's also data for a high rainfall area. In the back of the book, there's some decile tables that tell you how much feed to expect with different decile starts to the year. So we've got the graphs, but we didn't actually generate pictures. Then there's some other tables. Putting together that data again, showing feed quality for the different crop types. In terms of digestibility, energy and protein. What's the risk to grain yield? In the middle, the middle column there, 33% of the time, from all the trial data, yield was the same if you manage it correctly. 29%, it increased, 37% of the time we suffered losses. And so we discuss, in the top red there, why some of those losses occurred around that grazing management. Grazing management crop choice, and that helped a lot. So I'm not talking specifically about things, but just what's in the book and how you can use it. So it's about paddock choice, when to sow, and how to grow more feed. And choosing the crop type, so basically, research showed that all crops can be grazed, but it'll be the type of crop, so whether it's wheat or barley or canola or whatever. And it's the management, so that economic management and grazing management is gonna to have more effect on the performance than the actual specific variety itself. So, if you need, in choosing the variety, it's probably better to talk to your local people or try and get some local trials to generate that information. And all the things that went into the trials, a lot of this came out of groups like Bestwool-Bestlamb and other grower groups, and what they were doing and how to make comparisons. Some pictures about when to start grazing and a guide around that. Suggestions about the grazing intensity, perhaps not grazing so hard down to the white line, which takes a lot for the plant to recover, but just clip grazing. That came from some demonstrations as well as trials. We discuss the stocking rate and utilisation of that paddock. When you have a crop that you are going to harvest later on, you don't want it all having different maturity across the paddock, the more and the better you can keep that even, the easier it'll comes at harvest time later. And had an influence. That's not always easy in that part of the country, in the lower rainfall areas, big paddocks, we talk about lopsidability. And some direction on when to stock, in terms of plant maturity. Whether you're grazing cattle or sheep, whether you have irrigated crops, you can go a bit later, and obviously, you can go multiple times as well. The effects on crop maturity, if you've got an early-sown crop you may delay maturity, so you might avoid a frost, because it's pushing out the maturity but then it might push it into a dry period during spring later on too, so just keeping in mind, and a rule-of-thumb there from WA about how many days that is. There's something around animal health, I think we're still working that out a little bit through research. Up in New South Wales and people's own experiences, and guidelines around there. And some other considerations, what's it gonna do to your stubbles, is it gonna impact your weeds, are they gonna bury more seeds? We're finding most of the time, no they don't. Whether there's any impact on the soils, and certainly, with a lot of soils there isn't. I had a question earlier about pugging, and they actually found that that impact, even though it's quite a visual, is quite short-lived, and the crop recovers, it just performs fine the following year anyway. And also crop disease. So that's a really quick buzz through. So there's a lot of aspects to it because it's about the whole system, it's about your whole farm, and then it can all be found there. - [Host] Great, thanks Alison. We'll flick now to David and Steve, who are going to talk about the development of their manual for assessing the Feed On Offer. - [David] Okay, they're trusting me with the electronics this time. So, I'm a mixed farmer, growing cereal crops and growing a self-replacing Merino flock on 1800 hectares in the east area, in the 350 theoretical millimetre rainfall zone. 1200 hectares of crops each year, 400 hectares of fallow, and 200 hectares of veg, which is the main feed source for the sheep. In past years, we always used to get good metagrowth on our fallow, less of that now, but the reality is, to feed the sheep, they spend some time in the stock-containment area, they spend time grazing cereals, time on, just that waste fallow ground, and until it's sprayed out, and also on their veg pasture. So as the years have gone by, I've always wanted to try and improve my skill base in agriculture. Tried for a number of years to try and build some Lifetime Ewe Group or Bestwool-Bestlamb Group operating in the area. Eventually in 2014, got a Lifetime Ewe Group up and running which was being facilitated by Steve, and we were all very frustrated that the resources that came along with that course were tailored to areas different to us. You know, high rainfall, perennial pastures, not the annuals that we use in our area. So that difference created the problem. It was very easy to determine the quality, well if it looks terrible, or it looks nice, but the reality is, we don't know. So what do you do about it? And so initially, as part of doing Lifetime Ewe, we'd walk into a paddock, do a few calibration cuts, but, we're not talking about pure pastures ever, it's, as you can see there, there's a mix of cereals in there with the veg, and our guestimates weren't really that good. And as you can see, in general we're actually over-estimating what was there, so that creates the expected problems. So what we sort of thought, what are we gonna do about it? And we were making a lot of cuts here and there, we were discussing about that after harvest, we should walk into the stubbles, do a bit of, just put together an unofficial record of what feed is available in the various feeds that we do graze our crops on. We're very lucky that one of our Lifetime Ewe Group members is our local Landcare Coordinator, and he came along to one meeting one night and made us aware of some funding opportunities that were available. So we decided to use that to apply for a grant through the Landcare, to make a Feed On Offer book. So we just wanted to create resources as people are used to, where you can just flick through the book, have a look at a picture and get a rough guide to what feed is on offer using that book as a guide. And so, we looked at a number of different green samples. We tried to do the fallows, the traditional pastures, medics, different cereal varieties, and then we also did the most common stubbles that are grazed. So we didn't actually look at pulse crops because we were basically looking at the bare plant material that the sheep are grazing and eating. All the samples were sent away for feed tests, and we ended up producing the fantastic book, which you can pick a copy up of up, up the back. If you haven't already, and the result is a number of pages like this that you can have your quick look at. But, more importantly, than just creating the resource that we wanted, I feel that this project is a fantastic example of how we can all use Bestwool-Bestlamb to our advantage. There's a lot of training material out there, but because Australia's such a diverse country, it may not necessarily be what you need for your immediate area. There's plenty of opportunities out there to engage with others, apply for funding to help and create projects such as this Feed On Offer book that we've produced. It's very easy to just be in your Bestwool-Bestlamb Group, and come to this conference, four or five meetings a year, life's cruisey, but you've got to get out of your comfort zone. Get beyond that. Work out what's missing, what would make your business better, and then do something about creating something to fill that gap. And then, more importantly, share it for the good of the industry. So, thanks.
- [Announcer] Authorised by the Victoria Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.
Improving lamb survival by optimising lamb density
Amy Lockwood, Murdoch University, outlines research results on the role and guidelines for mob size in improving lamb survival.
- - [Grace] I'd like to introduce Dr. Amy Lockwood. Amy's from Murdoch University in Western Australia where she has done her PhD looking at lambing density, so stocking rate and mob size. She has now finished her PhD and taken up a postdoctoral research position, where she's focusing still on lamb survival. So, I'll hand over to Amy, just with questions, if you could please just hold them over 'til the end of the session, I'm sure you'll have plenty to ask, much as the last group did. So, yeah, could we just hold questions 'til the end so Amy can get through her presentation. Thanks very much.
- [Amy] Thanks Grace. Great to have you all here today, and it's great to be back in WA. So as Grace mentioned, I've been involved with this mob size stocking rate work for the last few years throughout my PhD, and I was supported by MLA Graduate Research Training Programme. So today we'll be having a bit of a look at lamb survival, why we want to improve lamb survival, and then moving on to some producer surveys that were run through the BestWool BestLamb programme a few years ago. Well, they touch on the National Lambing Density Project which Grace mentioned, and we have a few of the people that run the sites here today as well as Jason Trompf and Lyndon Kubeil who are co-managing the project. We'll then move onto a couple of studies that we've run in WA as part of my PhD, to really look at the effects of mob size on ewe and lamb behaviour and lamb survival, but we'll focus on some interesting findings we got there, over two contrasting seasons. And we'll end with some key messages. So lamb mortalities represent a major source of reproductive wastage within the Australian sheep industry. On average, at least 25% of lambs born will die prior to marking, and about 80% of these deaths occur in the first two to three days of life. These losses are estimated to cost the industry close to a billion dollars each year, so really a focus for improving lamb survival within the industry. Survival of merino lambs is poorer than that of our non-merinos, and that's partly related to their quite lower birth rate and their poor vigour, but also the poor mothering abilities of merino ewes. Nationally we're sitting at about 86% for marking rate for our merinos, and 108% for our non-merinos. Economic modelling has shown that improving the survival of twin-born lambs is the highest priority for improving reproductive performance within the industry, so that's where a lot of our lamb survival research is focused. So when it comes to allocating ewes to mobs at lambing we have our lifetime ewe management guidelines which recommend that we preg scan our ewes and separate out our singles and twins so that we can optimise maternal nutrition and therefore ewe and lamb survival. So we optimise maternal nutritions, we manage condition score, ideally we want our ewes in condition score of three at lambing, and also through management of feed-on-offer or FOO. There is some recommendations around paddock characteristics so for example shelter, we know that providing particularly our twin bearing ewes to well-accessed paddocks with well-access to shelter, that it can improve lamb survival, reducing the chill index that the lambs experience, however that shelter does need to be effective and obviously also utilised by the ewes. We also obviously have a risk of predators, and there's currently no, or very little evidence to support recommendations to you around the impacts of mob size and stocking rate on lamb survival. So that's where this presentation will focus. So, at the time of lambing, ewes are attracted to the birthing fluids and not the newborn lambs, and that attraction can result in disturbance events which may result in mismothering of lambs and obviously lower lamb survival but also it can result in dystocia due to that disturbance of the birthing process. So obviously with a higher mob size, we're going to have more ewes lambing per day, particularly in our twin-bearing mobs, and that is likely to present a greater risk of mismothering or disturbance at the time of lambing, and may compromise lamb survival. So this is some drone footage that we took on Jason Trompf's farm a few years ago through some funding through AWI, and basically what you can see here is ewe 140 has had one lamb, she's got this foreign lamb that's following her around everywhere, being quite annoying, and she's in labour with her second lamb. Ewe 180's had two lambs, and she's in labour with her third, and as you can see, there's quite a lot of disturbance happening, that foreign lamb, the foreign ewes, they're all lambing on top of each other, they don't know whose lambs are whose, so these are the types of events that we may expect at higher lambing densities or higher mob sizes, which can result in both dystocia or mismothering of lambs, and therefore poor lamb survival. So ewe 140 actually goes on to have a dead lamb, because she took so long due to all that disturbance from that foreign ewe and foreign lamb. So a few years ago, BestWool BestLamb in collaboration with Agriculture Victoria granted some funding from MLA, ran some surveys which we've analysed to have a look at the effects of mob size and stocking rate on lamb survival. So this slide focuses on the survival of twin-born lambs, so for our twins we saw for each extra 100 ewes in the mob at lambing, survival decreased by 3.5%. So marking rate decreased by 7% for each extra 100 ewes in the mob at lambing. Regardless of birth type, we found that lamb survival decreased by 0.7% for each extra ewe per hectare. So a significant effect of both mob size and stocking rate on lamb survival, particularly interested in that effect of mob size, given our priority is improving survival of twin-born lambs. So if we compare that 3.5% difference or decrease in lamb survival for a mob of 100 compared to 250 twin-bearing ewes, that equates to a difference in lamb survival of just over 5%, or a difference in marking rate of just over 10%. And the relevance here is that the current recommendation to you as producers is that you should be lambing twin-bearing ewes, adult twin-bearing ewes, between a mob size of 100 and 250. So as you can see within that range, we could be getting a difference in marking rate of over 10% which is a huge difference, and really highlights a scope to improve lamb survival by managing mob size and potentially stocking rate at lambing. So these surveys led on to the National Lambing Density Project, which has been funded by AWI and MLA, and involves several collaborators across southern Australia. So the research has been carried out on 70 farms across southern Australia, so WA, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, over three years. So we're currently in our final year, finishing off the remaining nine sites and we've completed 61 sites. And these sites involve adult twin-bearing ewes of either merino or non-merino breed on each farm, and basically they're split into four mobs. So we have a two by two design, so a high or a low mob size, and a high or a low stocking rate. And the hypothesis we were testing is basically that the poorest survival will be in our high mob size, high stocking rate group, and the greatest survival will be in our low mob size, low stocking rate group, based on our findings from the BestWool BestLamb surveys. So this map just shows you where our research sites have been located, over the past two years. In black are our merinos, in grey are our non-merinos so in WA we've been 100% merino with a bit of a mix over in the eastern states. So in terms of data collection, we have two main visits onto the farm, the first is around 140 days after the rams went in so about 10 days before the ewes are due to start lambing, and that's when we split the ewes into their four mobs. We condition score a sub-sample of ewes in each mob to determine their average condition score, and we also assess FOO in each of the four paddocks. We then come back at lamb marking, we count the number of lambs in each mob, so we can determine lamb survival based on our preg-scan data, and again we condition score those ewes and assess FOO. We've also recorded information around the paddock characteristics, so things like shape, topography, access to shelter, and the number of watering points. So this table just shows you the average mob size and stocking rate for each of our high and low treatment groups across our 61 sites that have been completed, so as you can see, not much difference between our merinos and our non-merinos, our low mob size has typically been around 95 ewes, our high mob size around 240 ewes and our stocking rate for the low treatments is generally between five and six ewes per hectare, and seven to eight for our high stocking rate. So these mob sizes and stocking rates are largely reflective of the high rainfall and sheep/wheat zones, what it doesn't capture is some of the larger lambing mobs which run at lower stocking rates in our lower rainfall zones, but there is currently expansion of this project which is quantifying the impacts of mob size in our larger mobs in lower rainfall zones at a constant lower stocking rate. So in terms of condition score and FOO at lambing, so on average ewes were in great condition nationally over both years, so 3.1 was our average condition score, and FOO was a bit variable but based on season but averaged around 1500 kilos. So some quite good conditions on average nationally. In terms of lamb survival, we found the higher mob sizes but not stocking rates reduced lamb survival. So survival was lower in our merinos compared to our non-merinos which is what you would expect, and survival of lambs in the low mob size groups was just under 3% higher than that in our high mob size groups. So that equates to a difference in marking rate of just under 6% between those two mob size treatments. We didn't see any significant effect of stocking rate on lamb survival, So it suggests that reducing stocking rate's probably not going to be an overly effective strategy in terms of improving lamb survival. So if we graph up that effect of mob size on lamb survival, in a solid line is our non merinos, and the dotted line is our merinos, so as you can see, reducing mob size improves lamb survival and the slope on that line is basically a 2% decrease in the survival of twins for each extra 100 ewes in the mob at lambing. So reducing mob size by 100, increases the number of lambs marked in each mob by at least four lambs. So just a recap on our surveys and our on-farm research sites, we've either seen no or a small effect of stocking rate on lamb survival which suggests that it's probably not going to be an effective strategy for improving lamb survival within the range that we've run our experiments on, so between two and 11 ewes per hectare. We've found that lower mob sizes improve lamb survival, and for our on-farm research sites, this effect was a 2% decrease in survival of twins for each extra 100 ewes. So an extra four lambs by reducing mob size by 100. And this effect was consistent between our merinos and our non-merinos, so it indicates that it's consistent across breeds, and also for our ewes, they've got a condition score of between 2.8 and 3.5 at lambing. So when ewes are in good condition at lambing, doesn't matter what breed, reducing mob size is going to improve lamb survival. To just touch on a couple of experiments we've run in WA as part of my PhD, so these trials were run in Pingelly, which is about two hours east of Perth, and we had merinos lambing in winter, so late June, early July. We had two contrasting seasons, in 2016 we had really great-- FOO levels were above two and a half tonne at lambing, last year was quite tough, we had FOO levels of less than 400 kilos at lambing and we were feeding throughout lambing. Despite those differences in seasonal conditions, the ewes were in good condition at lambing, averaging over three values last year. They just needed a bit of extra condition based on the poorer feed conditions. So these trials are mainly aimed at looking at differences between mob size in terms of ewe and lamb behaviour, so looking at those disturbance events. We didn't find too much around the ewe and lamb behaviour but did find some interesting results in terms of survival. So in 2016, we have merino ewes of either single or twin-bearing ewes, which lambed at mob sizes of 50 compared to 130 ewes. These ewes were synchronised for joining, so they lambed over about two weeks, so under a natural mating those mob sizes are probably a bit higher. As I said, FOO levels were above two and a half tonnes per hectare, and under those conditions we saw no effect of mob size on lamb survival for either our singles or our twins. In comparison last year, under our poorer seasonal conditions where FOO levels were less than 400 kilos, we were trail feeding throughout lambing and also had hay available, we had twins only lambing at mob sizes of 55 versus 210 ewes, and we found that the survival of twins in those mobs of 55 ewes was just over 6% higher than those in the mobs of 210 ewes. So just over a 12% higher marking rate. So that's a huge increase in survival, and indicates that there could be a relationship there between mob size, FOO, and lamb survival. And that effect of mob size on lamb survival, last year was equivalent to a 4% decrease in survival of lambs for each extra 100 ewes in the mob. So it's a bit higher than we saw from our national project, again, indicates that it may be something to do with the FOO or seasonal conditions. So just in terms of factors which may influence the benefit of reducing mob size on lamb survival, so based on our work in Pingelly, lambing in autumn when you've got less food available, or in poor seasons, there may be a greater benefit of reducing mob size on lamb survival in comparison to lambing later in spring, or when we've got deferred or high FOO levels. The size of your lambing mobs and the proportion of twins, so obviously if you've got more twins and you're reducing their mob size, you're going to improve lamb survival to a greater extent, as if you had a higher proportion of singles. The availability and size of your lambing paddocks so whether or not you have currently got some smaller paddocks that you can split your ewes into for lambing or whether you're going to need to put up some temporary or permanent fencing, and your proportion of pasture compared to crop, so obviously without singles in particular there is the opportunity to lamb under crops given their lower risk of metabolic disease but again that will influence the ability of you to split up your mobs. Whether or not you can use that temporary fencing for other purposes on the farm, or if you've been split lambing you can use it two times throughout the year, obviously you're going to pay off that cost of fencing a bit quicker. The other point is that when we reduce our paddock size and obviously lambing our ewes in smaller mobs we're not only going to improve lamb survival but we'll also improve pasture utilisation so there's a double benefit there in terms of both feed utilisation and lamb survival. So key messages, number one is that we want to be preg-scanning our ewes and splitting them into singles and twins so that we can optimise maternal nutrition and improve ewe and lamb survival which has been shown to ... Shown to improve lamb survival over the last two or three years through to the last time we managed this work. We are looking at additional strategies that we can implement to improve lamb survival, so we're aiming for a 5 to 10% increase within the industry, and one of those strategies could be to reduce mob size at lambing, and overall improve marking rate. So it's about really developing a bit of a package in terms of how we can achieve those additional benefits in terms of lamb survival on top of managing our ewe nutrition. Thank you.
- [Grace] The guy in the front.
- [Man In Audience] What's the average marking percentage for twins when you take merinos and crossbreds in, what's the average and how high do you think you can go?
- [Amy] So the average within our project was about 70% for our merinos, our merino twins, and about 75 to 80 for our non-merino twins. Ideally we'd want to be getting at least above 75% survival in our twin mobs and above 90% for our singles, so there's still definitely a lot of scope there and obviously there's a huge number of factors which influence lamb survival, so it's a complex thing to manage and to achieve those improvements, but we have a lot of opportunity and scope to improve particularly just even through the adoption of preg-scanning practises, only about 30% of people actually scan at the moment, so we've got a lot of work in terms of managing ewe nutrition and that's about achieving that national five or 10% which is what we're targeting as an industry.
- [Man In Audience] Yeah, thanks Amy. I guess the recommendations around smaller mob sizes have been around for a while, and they're sort of well accepted, and I'm probably sitting here a bit surprised that the differences weren't bigger, but we need this evidence which is great. What about just FOO on its own? Same stocking rate, same mob size, have we got much evidence around the impact just FOO by itself has on lamb survival of twins? - [Amy] So the question's about FOO levels and lamb survival in twins from over that time. So ... FOO levels are, the optimum FOO is around two tonne in terms of lamb survival, higher FOO levels may actually compromise survival if we're getting excessively higher, because of issues like abscesses and that sort of thing, and obviously low FOO levels are going to compromise as well because ewes aren't getting that optimum nutrition throughout lactation and their pregnancies. I haven't done too much myself in terms of FOO and lamb survival but I know two tonne is optimum, have to see.
- [Man In Audience] Is it a, one thing I'd love to get clear, is it a bigger impact though, than--
- [Amy] Than mob alone? - [Man In Audience] Mob size? - [Amy] Mob size is only a quite small effect, so it's the same as increasing condition score at lambing by about 0.1 to 0.2. So it's a small effect, it's not going to be, we don't provide you 10% increase in survival, unless there's ... Mob size by FOO interaction is actually there, so we would like to do some more work around whether or not at low FOO levels there's a great impact on mob size and survival which has been indicated through our work at Pingelly obviously managing FOO, and that's obviously linked heavily, maternal nutrition is gonna be the key focus in terms of survival. So managing our nutrition is going to be forefront and then things like mob size are just achieving those additional 2% to 3% increases in survival.
- [Man In Audience] Thanks.
- [Grace] In the middle there?
- [Man In Audience] Just genetics and the mothering ability of the sheep, where does that fit in?
- [Amy] Yeah, so the question's around genetics and mothering behaviour of ewes and lamb survival. So merinos are ... poor mothers overall, they don't, particularly with our twins, they often leave one behind, and so there's a high incidence of ewe and lamb separations in twins, which is often in mismothering, so genetics is, I guess mothering ability isn't something that's highly easy to select for and it's not, lamb survival is heavily influenced by the environmental conditions so it's not something that can be improved rapidly through genetic selection. But yeah, we do have some differences in breed. Particularly with merinos because they want to flock together, so we were expecting that we might have got a breed difference in our national project between our merinos and our non-merinos in terms of the effect of mob size because obviously we would have expected that our merinos are gonna all stick together, and so their lambing density or their, the deaths of the lambs being born from certain areas of the paddock would be higher, compared to our non-merinos that are more likely to spread out. So there are definitely differences between breeds or genetics in terms of behaviour, and that does influence lamb survival but it's really about, more so nutrition and management factors.
- [Man In Audience] The ability of the ewe to absorb enough food to support the two lambs ...
- [Amy] Yep. - [Man In Audience] How have you done there?
- [Amy] In terms of feed intake? To support them.
- [Man In Audience] Yeah, feed intake to support the two lambs.
- [Amy] Yeah, so the question's around food intake and lamb survival, so as I mentioned, FOO levels are optimal around two tonne and that's where feed intake by ewe is optimised and maximum, so above two tonne, they're not really going to be able to eat any more. And obviously with twins, the two foetuses are taking up quite a bit of room, so they don't have a lot of capacity to fill that rumen up, So their feed intake is going to be a bit lower on a day to day basis than our singles or dry ewes. I haven't personally done a lot of work around feed intake and lamb survival, so I can't really answer your question in too much detail, but obviously, yeah, twins have a lot of capacity to consume feed and with really short feed obviously they're going to be really limited in what they can actually consume. - [Man In Audience] So there's nothing about lamb survival on that proportion of--
- [Amy] In terms of lamb survival and feed intake?
- [Man In Audience] In relation to food intake, yeah. The ability to intake the amount of food that is needed for the nutritional requirements--
- [Amy] Well, there's a lot around nutritional requirements and lamb survival, so obviously we want our ewes to be in condition, less than three, they're going to be compromised in terms of lamb survival, so it's really about getting them to good condition before lambing, so when we allocate them to go and lamb in their paddocks we've got enough feed there, and that they're in good condition to start with. So they will drop off a bit between lambing and marking, but it's really making sure that they've got enough feed on the ground or if you're feeding throughout lambing, and starting with a good condition.
- [Man In Audience] Have you noticed whether there's any influence of the proximity to roads and vehicle movements to lambing?
- [Amy] Yeah, so the question's around proximity to disturbances I guess, vehicles, other things happening on the farm. With our national project, we made the aim of the four paddocks to be similar, so similar proximity to disturbances like roads, that sort of thing, and same with the other work, so yes they can ... Disturbances from either humans or predators can influence lamb survival, it's more about disturbing that ewe-lamb bond, and potentially does influence lamb survival, but there's not a whole lot of research around those sorts of events happening and lamb survival.
- [Grace] Down the front here?
- [Woman In Audience] Following on from that, so obviously a lot varies after the initial time during lambing so is there any correlation between trail feeding and that has a higher incidence of lower lamb survival? Or is it just leave it in the paddock, or bring in there?
- [Amy] Yeah, so this is a question that comes up regularly, so it's whether or not self-feeders or trail feeding's better in terms of lamb survival, I can see Steve's having a bit of a giggle over there, so this is something we had to have a good think about in terms of our national project and whether or not we were going to use trail feeding or whether we were going to use self feeders, and it's really controversial which one's better, and there is actually no solid experimental evidence to support it either way, based on my own observations, particularly from our lambing season last year in WA like we had really low FOO levels and we were trail feeding, obviously when you drive into the paddock with the trail feeder, and the ewes are hungry then they'll come straight to the feeder and they'll leave their lambs behind, they may not go back to them, they may go back to them, particularly with our twins, whereas if you have a self feeder in there that's got feed in it obviously, ewes can go at their leisure. So whether or not one's better than the other is still quite controversial, some people go self feeder, some people say trail feeding's better, I guess it's what works with your sheep, what they're used to, but I'm sort of leaning towards self-feeders. But yeah, it's something I'd love to do work around myself.
- [Grace] Any other questions? Yep.
- [Man In Audience] Yep, just with scanning merino ewes from twins and singles, or separating all your twin-bearing ewes, would that increase the percentage of mismothering?
- [Amy] So the question's around increasing mismothering because of just separating out your singles and your twins, so you're talking about having one big mob with twins, or?
- [Man In Audience] Yeah. - [Amy] Yeah. So obviously, yes, it is likely to increase the risk of mismothering if you're lambing your twins in huge mobs, which I guess is where this work comes in, reducing our mob sizes to improve lamb survival, and that's most likely because we are reducing that risk slightly. So, we wanna scan our ewes and separate our singles and twins because that's how we can manage their internal nutrition according to the foetuses they're carrying, and that is number one in terms of managing lamb survival, improving lamb survival, and then it's about achieving sort of and additional five to 10% increase in survival through additional strategies, such as reducing mob size. So we don't want to be lambing our twins in huge mobs, we do want to definitely split them up to reduce that risk of mismothering.
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