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Autumn lambing rates likely to be down

Autumn lambing rates are likely to be down across the Central Tablelands, with early pregnancy scan results showing fewer ewes are in lamb, and a much lower than normal rate of twin pregnancies.

“Given the reduced pregnancy rates, it’s more important than ever to maximise the survival of the lambs that have been conceived,” said Brett Littler, Senior Land Services Officer (Livestock) with Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

Brett reports the results from routine ewe pregnancy scanning rates in recent weeks have been poor with the low joining rates most likely due to dry conditions.

“It’s been very dry and very hot and it looks as though some ewes just didn’t cycle,” said Brett.

Pregnancy rates for some flocks have been below 50%, with the worst scanning results I’ve heard reported coming in at less than 10%.”

“The weekend rain was welcome but the long term prospects for this season will depend on whether we get follow up rain and pasture and crop growth before winter arrives.”

“A lot of farmers will be thinking about whether to hang on to dry ewes, join them again, or sell them off, so there are probably some tough decisions that need to be made,” said Brett.

Ensuring those ewes that are in lamb are getting enough feed will increase the chance of lambs being born alive at a healthy birth weight.

Research shows that good nutrition in the months before lambing, can overcome poor nutrition in early pregnancy. Improving nutrition during late pregnancy can increase birth weight and lamb survival. Ewes in condition score 3 at lambing will also wean more lambs.

Separating ewes that are carrying twins into a separate mob so they can be supplied with an increased ration and maintained above condition score 3, should increase twin survival rates. Ewes in good condition will also to return to fertility more quickly.

Meanwhile some farmers are currently preparing ewes for joining ahead of a planned late winter/spring lambing season, and according to Brett Littler, the message about supplying adequate feed is much the same.

“Good nutrition is the key to successful conception. If there isn’t enough pasture, ewes will need supplementary feed, otherwise fertility will decline and there will be less lambs on the ground at the end of the season.”

For more advice on nutrition for ewes in lamb contact your Central Tablelands Local Land Services vet or livestock officer in Bathurst, Cowra, Lithgow, Molong, Mudgee or Orange.

Brett Littler will be talking about live cattle and sheep assessment at next week’s turning Pastures into Profit field day at Borenore (Orange) on Thursday 4 April. Workshops sessions will also cover pasture establishment and maintenance, feed assessment, and reducing restocking risks.