Farm systems scientist Tom Fraser told farmers at a recent Central Canterbury Farming for Profit seminar that going into lambing was the perfect time to set up a monitor mob, particularly this season.
“We know how valuable these animals are so we need to maximise production.”
To set up a mob, select a reasonably accessible paddock or paddocks and a representative sample of twin-scanned ewes (although single and triplet-bearing ewes can be used) – preferably mated in their first cycle.
Set-stock the ewes at the normal stocking rate and at the normal time.
Over lambing, this mob needs to be checked once a day and information gathered about ewe and lamb deaths, assisted births and other relevant information.
A sample number of lambs (50 is ideal) should be weighed at docking, at mid-lactation and at weaning. While it is preferable to weigh the same lambs – these can be identified with a tag or raddle – it is not essential. Tom suggests using bathroom scales placed on a flat board to weigh the lambs. A person can hold the lamb and the weight of the person subtracted from the total weight.
The ewes should be Body Condition Scored at set-stocking, at tailing and at weaning and if possible, at mid-lactation.
Pastures should be assessed at the same times as the ewes are body condition scored and lambs weighed and be given a simple one-to-four or one-to-five rating, with one being rubbish and five being rocket fuel. An estimation – or measurement – of pasture masses should also be recorded.
At weaning, all of this information will provide insight into why farmers got the results they got, including the reasons behind lamb and ewe losses as well as an indication of the lamb growth profile over lactation.
Tom says the more information recorded between set-stocking and weaning the more valuable it will be.
“It’s simple to do and all it costs you is a bit of time and a couple of bits of paper.”
He points out that most of measuring takes place during routine farm tasks, such as set-stocking, tailing and weaning so there is very little extra time required.