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Economic value of pregnancy scanning and optimum nutritional management of dry, single - and twin-bearing Merino ewes

Young, J.M., Behrendt, R., Curnow, M., Oldham, C.M. and Thompson, A.N. (2016) Economic value of pregnancy scanning and optimum nutritional management of dry, single - and twin-bearing Merino ewes. Animal Production Science, 56 (4). pp. 669-678.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN15202
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Abstract

The nutritional requirements of twin-bearing ewes are ∼25% greater than those of ewes with single fetuses during late pregnancy and nearly twice those of non-pregnant ewes. Underfeeding ewes, resulting in liveweight loss during late pregnancy, can have adverse effects on the production and survival of both the lamb and the ewe, and improving twin-lamb survival is critical to improving the overall reproductive performance of the National Merino flock. Scanning for pregnancy status and litter size allows for more precise management of the nutrition of the ewe flock according to the different nutritional needs of dry, single- and twin-bearing ewes. In the present paper, we tested the hypothesis that it is profitable to identify pregnancy status and litter size, and the optimum nutrition profiles are different for dry, single- and twin-bearing ewes. We tested this by examining a range of nutrition strategies for flocks where only the dry ewes were identified, or for flocks where the single- and twin-bearing ewes were identified. A MIDAS model set up for the Hamilton region in south-western Victoria was used for this analysis as it represents the whole flock and it includes a powerful feed-budgeting module that optimises animal and pasture management across the whole farm. The survival and production of the single- and twin-born progeny was adjusted on the basis of the liveweight profile of the single- and twin-bearing ewes. Our hypothesis was supported and profitability was increased by approximately AU$4630/farm or AU$0.80/ewe, by scanning ewes for pregnancy status and litter size, and the optimum liveweight profiles were different for dry, single- and twin-bearing ewes. The majority of the increase in profit was due to identifying litter size and being able to differentially manage the single- and twin-bearing ewes. When ewes are scanned for pregnancy status and litter size, the most profitable combination of profiles involves all ewes losing 4 kg in early pregnancy and single-bearing ewes regaining the 4 kg to lamb at their standard reference weight, twin-bearing ewes gaining 8 kg to lamb above their standard reference weight and dry ewes losing a further 4 kg to be 8 kg lighter than their standard reference weight at lambing time.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2016
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/30429
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