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Factors influencing the optimum mob size of ewes at lambing and the economic benefit of lambing ewes in smaller mobs to increase lamb survival across southern Australia

Lockwood, A., Trompf, J., Hancock, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-4115-4642, Kubeil, L., Thompson, A.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459 and Young, J. (2020) Factors influencing the optimum mob size of ewes at lambing and the economic benefit of lambing ewes in smaller mobs to increase lamb survival across southern Australia. Agricultural Systems, 184 . Article 102916.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2020.102916
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Abstract

At least 25% of lambs born in Australia die before marking. Research across southern Australia has demonstrated that reducing mob size at lambing by 100 ewes will, on average, increase the survival of single-born lambs by 0.8% and twin-born lambs by 2.2%. In this paper we assessed the economic value of lambing ewes in smaller mobs to improve lamb survival. The analysis considered scenarios for Merino and non-Merino flocks where producers subdivided lambing paddocks using temporary or permanent fencing, or where ewes were reallocated within existing paddocks based on ewe pregnancy status. Optimum mob sizes were most sensitive to the type of fencing used for subdivision, whether ewes were single- or twin-bearing, whether the effect of paddock size on potential stocking rate was included and the target return on investment. Breed, ewe stocking rate, scanning percentage and lamb price also impacted optimum mob size but had a smaller effect. The optimum mob size for twin-bearing Merino and non-Merino ewes was between 34% and 60% that of single-bearing ewes and this was similar for scenarios where paddocks were subdivided or ewes were reallocated within existing paddocks. Permanent subdivision of paddocks also presents an opportunity to increase stocking rate by capitalising on the benefits of improved pasture utilisation in smaller paddocks. The relationship between paddock size and pasture utilisation is not well quantified but it has an important effect on optimum mob and paddock size. The value of reallocating ewes within existing paddocks was greatest at a scanning percentage of 150% as this presents the greatest opportunity to alter mob sizes for single- and twin-bearing ewes. The economic return from adjusting the relative mob size of twin-bearing ewes from 100% to 50% that of single-bearing ewes was up to $0.27/Merino ewe/yr and $0.44/non-Merino ewe/yr with lamb at $6/kg carcass weight. Overall, these analyses demonstrate that reducing mob size at lambing can be a profitable strategy for improving lamb survival depending on the current size of lambing mobs. However, it is difficult to provide generic recommendations to producers for the optimum mob size of ewes and value of paddock subdivision because these are dependent on enterprise-specific factors.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Agricultural Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2020 Elsevier Ltd
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/57252
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