How efficient are your ewes?

How efficient are your ewes?

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David Young with his Bundilla-blood maiden ewes on the point of shearing.

David Young with his Bundilla-blood maiden ewes on the point of shearing.

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Trials are underway in assessing the lifetime productivity of a ewe

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During the recent Bookham Merino ewe competition, the concept of measuring the productive performance of a ewe was raised.

When talking about his breeding aspirations competition entrant David Young, Ferndale, Bookham said he was still working towards lifting the productivity of his Bundilla-blood flock even though he considered he has a good commercial base.

"Our wool quality is something I am working on and getting good help from Simon Flick and Rick Baldwin but we are starting to get a type in our ewes," Mr Young said.

"They are structurally sound and are very heavy wool cutters which is something I have been aiming for."

To further his goals, Mr Young had wool samples taken from the rump by Anthony Shepherd, sheep breeding consultant with Sheepmatters, Cootamundra.

"I am quite keen on getting that fleece data and being able to use it along with fleece weights taken at shearing when we class our ewes," he said.

"And although I am keen to follow up with Anthony about measuring the productive efficiency of my ewes, I am still working on the basics before I take that next step."

Mr Young was alluding to his continuing program of pasture improvement along with working on the genetics of lifting fleece quality, factors it wants in place before embracing the concept of ewe efficiency.

The ewe efficiency program is a six year trial conducted by Mr Shepherd and funded by MLA to determine a ewes ability to reproduce and monitor the performance of those lambs.

The study will see how many lambs the ewe rears to weaning and their growth rate along with evaluating how well those lambs replicate or improve upon the ewes efficiency.

Competition judge Alex Wilson, Kalaree Poll Merino stud, Tarago said each ewe has a basic energy requirement which is a cost to the business.

"Whether you have a mortgage on your land or leasing you are basically paying for grass," he said.

"And if that is a cost of doing business of feeding the ewe she needs to able to pay the business back."

Mr Wilson noted some ewes do it very well, while others don't whether in wool cut or fertility or if she is putting weight onto her lambs and they are doing well along with herself.

"It is about fleece weight, how much the ewe is producing, the relative micron and value of that fleece," he said.

"The cost of the grass can be worked out by using the average dollars per bale and how many ewes were shorn."

This concept is moving away from aiming at breeding a line of ewes all weighing a certain amount and producing a fleece with a certain weight.

It is, Mr Wilson said, looking at valuing the ewe by the amount of wool and lambs she produces.

"In Anthony's pilot program he has 13,000 ewes being studied across Australia, Composites and Merinos and there is a one hundred percent variance in wool value which is huge," he said.

"When looking at the fertility and the performance of the lambs there is a three hundred percent variance.

"There is huge value to be made in fertility and selecting for that trait."

Mr Young said he is working on that aspect of his program.

"We are scanning for twins, singles and dries and manage them accordingly," he said.

"I am also using date for micron and fleece weight to take an objective look at the ewe at classing.

"She has to be productive to stay here, if not she is gone.

"I don't give my maidens a second chance."

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