Sheep thrive on rationing

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Feed and breed is the motto at Hill Side in Katanning and this year is no exception.

In January, Gary Baker and Chrissie Day will watch on eagerly as their white tag ewes start lambing.

The ewes were mated on August 2 and when pregnancy scanned a couple of weeks ago, showed a potential lambing percentage of 117 per cent.

The aim is to get two lambs out of every ewe in one year.

Previously the duo traded sheep, but made the move two years ago into breeding Dohnes.

Last year they had a 140 per cent lamb drop and marked 122 per cent.

Despite a tough winter and spring, they are confident of a successful January drop.

Gary and Chrissie’s confidence is in the saliva controlled feeding system they are using — which is also used by 600 farmers across the State — Advantage Feeders. Livestock access the feeders to get a controlled ration of grain that supplements pasture or hay for roughage.

In February, they ordered a feeder and the main benefits they have noticed are that their sheep maintained condition through balanced nutrition and utilised feed more efficiently.

“The end result is the sheep didn’t flog our paddocks because they were getting the supplementary feed, ” Chrissie said. “The pasture got ahead in the growing stages and the sheep were well ahead in pregnancy and lactation.

“They had terrific lambs, the ewes were in great condition and had udders like I’ve never seen before.”

The system is also helping save on input costs.

“The feed in the paddock is lasting longer and last year, with 800 sheep, we ran out of grain in August compared with this year where we still have grain left and are feeding 1500 head, ” Gary said.

“I have only done one costing for 265 ewes and 265 lambs that were in one mob and they used $3.60 worth of grain over four months at $300 per tonne. The oldest crossbred lambs at weaning were up to 50 kg.”

The key is taking away wastage with a more even level of nutrition rather than the feast or famine of trail feeding.

The other benefits noticed by the couple are sheep can stay in stubbles longer and wool growth has improved.

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