Make the most of the 2019 joining (and next year)

For most producers ewe numbers will be down for 2019 and returns from wool and lamb potentially look exceptional. The need to get maximum numbers of lambs on the ground is more critical than ever.

If you haven’t joined yet here a few reminders to consider.

Weight = lambs. Get ewes to condition score 3

More weight (ie pretty much condition score) at joining correlates with more lambs. Target is to have them at a minimum condition score of 3.

It is estimated that for every 1 kg of avg bodyweight is an additional 1.1% of lambs conceived.

It is rarely cost effective to feed grain to get the increase in weight, but this year may well be an exception. It is far better to have your joining timed to correspond with a period of feed availability that has the ewes in good condition, but that is a bigger overall management decision.  We join January 20 and it seems to work for us – ewes have recovered from weaning and have generally gained some weight on stubbles.

Joining weights in 2018 here were 84kg average (compared with 78 in 2017). Our conception rate (of the ewes in lamb) was 178% in 2018 versus 165% in 2017. Pretty much exactly the extra 1.1% per extra kg of weight predicted.

It can be a fine line – the percentage of ewes preg tested triplets went from 4% in 2017 to 9.7% in 2018. I don’t think we need to push joining weight any higher, unless we can manage the triplets a lot better.

If you still have the rams out

Its worth observing the rams and ewes prior to pulling the rams out. Hot weather and nutritional stress may have affected your joining. If there is still a fair bit of activity it may be worth extending joining for for another week or so. A full cycle is 17 days. Extended joinings will make it harder for your preg tester to identify multiples, so make sure you tell him or her what you have done.

Flushing ewes

To me this has always seen like a bit of a magical art, and something we haven’t particularly practised. Once again 2019 seems like the perfect year to try and flush ewes for a better joining result, especially if you have let your ewes slip just a little in condition.

Flushing is used to increase the conception rate in ewes, and if used effectively you can expect a 25-30% increase in foetus’s conceived. Two commonly used options to flush ewes are:

  1. Lupins fed at ½ kg for the two weeks prior to joining
  2. Access to green feed (lucerne) for 2 weeks prior to joining. It doesn’t need to be high quality. Great option when paddocks that lambs have been grazing and have left poorer quality stalks and small amount of as this paddock will be of less benefit to the lambs

I imagine any source of quality feed (ie green wheat or canola stubbles, or even fresh stubbles with a bit of grain) would probably be of similar benefit, and perhaps why the benefit may not be quite as obvious.

Condition score of animals plays a major role in response from both the above treatments. Ewes respond better to flushing when they are in lighter condition score ie < 3.

It is suggested you can budget on a 30% increase in conception in the CS<3.0 ewes (that sounds like a stretch too me), so well worth drafting off that portion of your flock and giving them some special treatment for a couple of weeks whether it be lupins or lucerne.