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Whole-farm profit and the optimum maternal liveweight profile of Merino ewe flocks lambing in winter and spring are influenced by the effects of ewe nutrition on the progeny's survival and lifetime wool production

Young, J.M., Thompson, A.N., Curnow, M. and Oldham, C.M. (2011) Whole-farm profit and the optimum maternal liveweight profile of Merino ewe flocks lambing in winter and spring are influenced by the effects of ewe nutrition on the progeny's survival and lifetime wool production. Animal Production Science, 51 (9). pp. 821-833.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN10078
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Abstract

Profitability of sheep production systems in southern Australia is optimised at a stocking rate that provides adequate nutrition for breeding ewes and enables efficient utilisation of grown pasture and supplements. In this paper we used bio-economic modelling to develop optimum liveweight1 profiles for spring-lambing Merino ewes in different environments. The modelling included the impacts of the ewe liveweight profile on the production of the ewe and the survival and lifetime wool production of her progeny. Fifteen ewe liveweight profiles were analysed for each region to determine the profitability of varying ewe liveweight at joining, varying rate of loss of liveweight after joining and the rate of gain in liveweight from the minimum to lambing. The analyses support the hypotheses that whole-farm profitability is sensitive to the liveweight profile of Merino ewe flocks and that there is a liveweight profile that maximises whole-farm profit. The variation between the most and least profitable ewe liveweight profile was $690002 per farm ($14.30/ewe) for south-west Victoria, $51000 per farm ($8.70/ewe) for Great Southern Western Australia and $33300 per farm ($9.70/ewe) for southern New South Wales. The changes in profit were due to differences in costs of feeding to achieve the ewe liveweight profile and its influence on the production of both the ewes and their progeny. Failure to include the impacts of liveweight profile on progeny survival and lifetime wool production incorrectly identifies the optimum ewe liveweight profile and provided inaccurate estimates of profitability. The optimum liveweight profiles for ewes lambing in spring were similar for all three regions and insensitive to changing commodity prices, pasture productivity and management. The optimum profile was to join ewes at ∼90% of the standard reference weight of the genotype, lose a small amount of weight after joining and regain weight in late pregnancy to return to the joining weight by lambing. Regaining the liveweight lost in early pregnancy by lambing is the most important target to achieve. The cost per farm of missing this liveweight target by 1 kg was $13000 ($2.60/ewe) for south-west Victoria, $8900 ($1.45/ewe) for Great Southern Western Australia and $5500 ($1.65/ewe) for southern New South Wales. By contrast, the cost per farm of missing the joining target by 1 kg was $5500 for south-west Victoria and less than $2000 across the other two regions. Whole-farm profit increased with increasing stocking rate up to an optimum and regardless of stocking rate there is an additional opportunity to increase whole-farm profit by up to 15% by managing ewes to achieve the optimum liveweight profile. This indicates that the optimum liveweight profile should be achieved by increasing the level of grain feeding and altering the timing of utilising the farm feed resources rather than manipulating stocking rate.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2011
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/5461
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