Managing Merino weaners
The management of ewe weaners in a self-replacing flock is the most important assignment/job on the farm as it determines the quality of the next generation.
According to Rob Inglis, senior livestock production manager at Elders Wagga Wagga, who has been involved in the livestock and sheep industry for 30 years, managing Merino weaners effectively not only maximises feed efficiency, it also has a profound effect on the lifetime reproductive performance of the ewe.
Mr Inglis is also one of a team of Lifetime Ewe Management facilitators at Elders, and says “Having been involved in more than 30 Lifetime Groups from the central tablelands of NSW to pastoral South Australia, we (the team) have noticed a common theme – ewes which had a tough time as weaners are less fertile than their contemporaries. There are particular age groups which are less productive, and these age groups can usually be aligned to a period of sub-optimal nutrition during puberty.”
Ewe weaners which achieve above industry standard growth rates during puberty have been shown to raise more lambs over their reproductive lives. Conversely, ewe weaners which fail to achieve weight for age benchmarks have henceforth been very poor performers – both in terms of wool production and reproductive rate.
Weigh weaners regularly
The key to managing Merino ewe weaners says Mr Inglis, is to weigh regularly.
The first step in this process is to calculate the standard adult reference weight of the flock. Having made this calculation, pre-determined benchmark weaner weights can be calculated using industry standards. The graph below demonstrates this process. This graph plots the weight for age targets of weaners based on a 55kg adult standard reference weight.
Graph showing live weight for age targets for weaners.
In order to hit the aforementioned weight for age benchmarks, weaners must achieve daily growth rates ranging from 50 grams and 150 grams per day, depending on starting (weaning) weight.
Clearly ewe weaners must be managed and fed in mobs based on weight. In practical terms, this means drafting weaners at least three ways – heavy, medium and light.
The Elder Livestock Production team have the equipment and the knowledge to help producers achieve these targets. The skillful allocation of the appropriate resources to the right stock will ensure both short term profit – selling cull ewes at a higher rate – and more importantly the long-term viability of the breeding flock.
For more information and production advice, contact your local Livestock Production Advisor.