Friday, December 15, 2017

Common sense goes a long way in farming and most things for that matter!

I have just read two articles, one about some brothers in southland, being part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership programme and another about Hogget mating.   I generally concur with what is being said or written, with a few qualifications. 

However I guess what does alarm me when I  read these such articles is that practically all this advice is not rocket science, it’s something that I take for granted in my normal farming practice.  Now I don’t consider myself to be the greatest farmer in the world, but in everything I do, I try to do it to the best of my ability and farming is no exception.

Perhaps I was lucky to have a father who was a good stockmen: not just teaching me what a good sheep is in terms of conformation and structure etc., but just in management or perhaps it’s because I am not a moron, or perhaps it’s because I do make an effort to read all relevant literature that may be of value to what I do, which means it is common sense.
Every time Beef and Lamb put out some new guide for farming that I haven’t read, I always read it.  Over many  years to date there has never been anything in these guides that I go “hell I better start doing that” (the closest would be body condition scoring with my hand, as opposed to eye, which is definitely more accurate), why is this, because quite simply again it’s all what I consider  common sense.

The brothers in the article were advocating putting only 60% of their ewes to maternal rams for replacements.  I am not sure you could put an exact percentage on it, but the best way to improve your flock has always been and still is not to breed from the rubbish.  You always put your worst ewes to a terminal sire.  I guess my concern in recent years is how many people these days genuinely have the ability to determine which are the good ewes and which are the bad ones, many do this purely on how fat they are these days, which is certainly not the same, I am not just talking farmers, I would be even more dubious of a consultant suggesting he could do this for you. 
My caveat as to percentage is unless your ewes are of the quality of my stud romney flock, you need to be culling something like 50% of your ewe lambs (I still cull in excess of 50%) when selecting replacements to ensure they are good enough to breed from.   Some scientist suggested in the last year or two that farmers  should only cull 10 or 20% of ewe lambs out when selecting  replacements and therefore could mate most ewes to a terminal, which is utter crap as most if not all farmers flocks aren’t simply good enough to come anywhere near this.

I am not a big fan of farm consultants generally, as cynically I think it must be difficult for a consultant to not advocate change of some sort given they are charging you 100 plus dollars an hour for their advice (most of which I consider common sense and a lot of which you get for free by reading or from agronomists who supply product, in the case of cropping etc.).   I am pretty sure that most of us don’t enjoy paying a large bill for advice saying keep doing what you are doing.    I am being a little bit facetious and accept there probably is a place for consultants, but I also believe there are  lot used who don’t need to be.

In my view the most important time on a sheep farm is 6 weeks before mating through to the first 2 weeks of mating.   You need to ensure body condition score of ewes is 3 or more, that they are on rising plain and that the rams are working well and in the right numbers.    This is the time when you endeavour to maximise conception, after mating is over, the rest of the year we are simply trying to minimise loss in terms of condition, abortion, reabsorption, deaths etc. hence the reason mating is the most important as it sets the benchmark to start from in terms of profit for you to minimise subsequent losses over the rest of the year.

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