Flock size the talking point

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman

More lambs, better wool and healthier ewes are all benefits of the Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) program which is being endorsed as the answer to WA's dwindling sheep numbers.

This was the message at last week's Sheep Industry Leadership Council (SILC) meeting held in Fremantle at the Tradewinds Hotel.

As a follow-up to the More Sheep initiative, which was launched by Agriculture Minister Terry Redman earlier in the year, SILC is calling on the industry to unite to help reverse the decline in sheep numbers.

At the meeting, 41 council members and industry representatives traded ideas with the main objective of assisting sheep producers in their efforts to rebuild the flock through education and skills training.

SILC chairman Rob Warburton said the 11-member council had mapped out a systematic approach, specifically using LTEM as a tool to increase lamb markings as a short-term goal.

"WA has an incredible opportunity and many of the major industry players are working together to help make the State's sheep industry viable," Mr Warburton said.

In recent years, WA's sheep flock has dwindled due to unfavourable seasonal conditions and increased competition from cropping but Mr Warburton said with the exception of canola, sheep were returning higher gross margins compared to an all-cropping program.

The meeting included a video link-up with New Zealand farm consultant Peter Fennessy who spoke on the importance of using sheep genetics for productivity gains.

SILC executive officer Justin Hardy said it was through genetics that NZ shepherds were getting quick productivity results.

"As the NZ dairy industry pushes sheep onto more marginal land, producers are using a combination of genetics and nutrition management practices," Mr Hardy said.

He said SILC would be scheduling, through DAFWA, LTEM educational courses for farm consultants, livestock agents and others so that the program's management skills would be more widely discussed with WA producers.

"This will enable further progress of SILC to achieve its goals of reaching sustainable sheep flock levels," Mr Hardy said.

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