Adding data to managing ewes in containment

Survey to find best practices for managing breeding ewes in containment

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Charles Sturt University's Dr Susan Robertson, from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, is researching best practices for managing ewes in containment.

Charles Sturt University's Dr Susan Robertson, from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, is researching best practices for managing ewes in containment.

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CSU survey on managing ewes in containment

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Containment or supplementary feeding was a crucial management tool for many farmers during the last few years of drought.

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However, Charles Sturt University sheep production researcher Dr Susan Robertson said at this stage there was little scientific evidence to guide producers on how to best manage breeding ewes in containment.

"There are a lot of guidelines available, but we haven't got hard data to indicate what practices are optimal in terms of improving lamb marking rates," Dr Robertson said.

Dr Robertson is undertaking research to find that data - asking sheep producers to fill out a national survey to help identify what practices help improve reproduction in breeding ewes managed in containment.

"We're interested in the entire management program - ewe and ram preparation before entering the containment lot, introduction to feeding, what we're feeding, how we're feeding, are we using shade, general husbandry, mob size, pen design and any health issues noticed," Dr Robertson said.

She said that while producers usually reported normal rates, she had heard of very variable lambings when ewes had been joined or managed in containment.

"I've heard of pregnancy rates from less than 50 per cent to 97 per cent," Dr Robertson said.

"Small reductions or increases in either pregnancy rates or lamb marking rates probably aren't noticed, or are viewed as normal seasonal variation.

"But with the current value of sheep, even small improvements can make a large difference to profit, and obviously we want to determine which practices give better results, and which might be higher risk."

Producers who have been hand-feeding 300 or more ewes in containment or in the paddock for any time in the last three years are invited to partake in the anonymous survey.

"We're looking for both good and poor results, the more data the better," Dr Robertson said.

The survey data will be used to direct further research if needed and to develop updated guidelines to assist producers.

To access the survey go to - https://www.research.net/r/Containment_feeding.

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