It’s been a pretty tough summer for most of us on the east coast. We were restricted to around 50% irrigation for most of the season and stopped altogether in early march. Which may sound pathetic, but the problem is when you rely on irrigation, you don’t have 20 tonne of silage in a pit in case you have a drought, nor do you sow green feed crops in the spring as you pay a lot for water and are geared to grow grass all through the summer, so not having water made life very difficult and more so when you don’t have any animals you can get rid of (because my whole operation is essentially all stud sheep there really is no excess stock I can get rid of when dry).
Amazing new developments in Waidale’s breeding program!!!! Nothing new to advise here, at Waidale I Still:
· don’t drench the adult ewes (those that don’t handle it are culled, our pragmatic worm resistance program), we are slowly reaping the rewards from this policy: and
· practice an extended drench program of 6 to 8 weeks on our lambs (except for those we cull and kill); and
· cull all year around for conformation constitution etc, all good breeders should be doing this; and
· only use sires that look as they should and have good SIL figures: a good ram with poor figures will not be used and similarly a poor ram with great figures will also not be used. Too many breeders use poor rams with great figures, not at Waidale! and
· practice the dying art of stockmanship which ensures our flock is of a consistent type that reflects the type of sheep I want to breed, i.e. good on feet legs, good jaw, good eyes, good colour, good length, good width, good depth, good hind quarters etc. (All these things affect the future productivity of your flock, if you don’t maintain it, in the short term not a significant impact, but long term major impact). You do this for long enough your phenotype will reflect the genotype, which greatly increases the likelihood that a ram you like the look of will actually pass on the production traits you see in that ram; and
· have all flocks (except the Lincolns) SIL recorded; and
· footrot and cold tolerance profile sires to ensure I am not using a dud ram (some people wrongly slag this footrot test, it does not mean you won’t get footrot, but I know from my experience with the Lincolns that it has merit, straight Whydid Lincolns rarely profile anything but the highest i.e. 1.1 and they are very rarely lame. We are also are on a farm that would have more footrot challenge than most, and accordingly we have been culling all the time for years on this. You need a footrot challenge to ensure you are breeding sheep that have some resistance to it; and
· eye muscle scan all rams I keep through the winter; and
· collect viascan data on all culled lambs killed; and
· cull all Romney ewes that have two singles in a row; and
· mate our ewe hoggets for 18 days only; and
· tag all lambs at birth to ensure accurate pedigrees which in turn promotes greater accuracy in SIL figures; and
· wean in excess of 150% with the Romneys, more like 160 these days, almost irrespective of what they scan; and
· have an honest upfront attitude. I pride myself on my directness and my honesty; and
· have an extensive website www.waidalerams.co.nz, which details all of the above and more; it’s worth a look.
Adult weight index, DPA
There was massive debate at this forum about weighing adult sheep to get a breeding value, and the importance of condition scoring ewes at the time of weighing. Condition scoring is required to differentiate between for an example a skinny slab sided composite ewe of 65kg (note I am taking the piss here, apparently there is the odd skinny slab sided Romney ewe around as well) and a fat grunty meaty Romney ewe of 65kg, one you want and of course one you don’t. The problem I have with such a breeding value is that I consider it largely redundant for a good stockman as I can look at a sheep and tell you if it’s going to leave big slab sided mongrels or little wee buggers etc. My eye is as accurate if not more so and probably more importantly my eye is more timely as even if you collate all such data it’s only when you have an adult progeny on the ground of the sire ram that you can have confidence in the breeding values.
It seems many breeders are looking for SIL to solve everything, but personally I would sooner see Beef and Lamb concentrate on those things I cannot see, for example fertility (nlbbv) and survival (surbv), these are traits that I can’t look at a sheep and go yes fertile etc.
Trevor cook gave a demonstration and talk on this. I always cull gutless and skinny ewes, but mostly on eye. I haven’t handled all ewes to condition score them on a scale of 1 to 5, but after listening to this I think it’s probably one of the most practical and easy gains we can make in lambing percentage, by simply ensuring all ewes are a condition score of 3 or more. I can’t remember the exact percentage gain, but it’s significant. There is a ewe Body Condition Scoring handbook on beef and lamb website that sets it all out. It’s certainly something I will put more focus on.