Joining is a crucial part of your production system. Whether you are a merino or prime lamb breeder, it doesn’t really matter. If you have a failed joining you have no hope of achieving your real potential throughout the year. You only have one opportunity each year. Get it right!
Without a successful joining you quickly limit your ability to generate the income that will allow you to reduce debt, improve infrastructure, expand your operation, take the family on a holiday, or just feel bloody good about how well your sheep are performing. Not only that, but you limit your genetic progress if in a self replacing flock.
There are simple steps that you can take to put you in the best possible position to have a successful joining and improve your lamb survival prospects. But this takes planning, and it has to start NOW!
The keys to a successful joining and setting your ewes up for good lamb survival are
- Ram health - Have rams in fit working order that are ready to go and do the job expected of them, we have talked about this in a previous article. If you haven't inspected your rams yet this year, go and do it. On average this year our team have culled 10-15% of ram teams when inspecting them for the first time. Feeding 500gms/ head/day of lupins for 8-10 weeks prior to joining will improve both the quantity and quality of semen.
- Have ALL ewes in CS 3+ at the beginning of joining and not allowing them to slip in condition during joining. Meeting energy requirements is a must at this time, as any imbalance between what they are getting and what they need will have a detrimental effect on your joining. We don’t want you chasing a massive rising plane of nutrition. Just guarantee us that your ewes aren’t going backwards!
- The only way to know your reproductive potential is to scan, and scan for multiples. There is no other way, and there is no crystal ball. The timing of scanning and the way in which the sheep are prepared and presented (length of joining, days since rams went in, full vs empty etc) are critical in achieving the best possible results. Please talk to your scanners to see what their protocol is to allow for a successful scanning.
- Treat singles and twins separately and allocate feed according to their specific requirements. This is where scanning really pays off. Why would you want to feed a sheep more than it needs? At the same time, we know what affect underfeeding twin bearing ewes will have. You simply can’t afford to do it.
- Start to think about lambing paddocks now. With a big spring in most areas, the risk of rank feed affecting pastures in Autumn is real. Your job is to clean up your high priority paddocks to allow a good strong clover germination next year. After the break you will need as much high quality feed as you can grow for your multiples along with as much shelter as you can give them. This will keep them on the birth site as long as possible, which we know is critical to lamb survival. Singles can work a bit harder, with less feed on offer and less shelter. Always be mindful that most issues with single born lambs are the result of high birthweights, due to over feeding. But that isn't an excuse to starve them either!
Allowing your ewes to express their real potential reproductive rates, and then setting up the ideal lambing environment is your challenge, and it starts now.
YOU have control over all of these things. Don’t let your ewes down.
Achieve Ag Solutions work with individual clients to improve their livestock enterprise performance, are regularly keynote speakers, and are involved in various industry projects. If you would like us to work with you, please do not hesitate to contact us.