Rains come in nick of time

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Recent rain has dampened fears of a false break for many of the State's sheep producers.

Despite average and above-average April rainfall in the Wheatbelt and Mid West, the dry start to May concerned many sheep producers, who required follow-up rain to boost pasture growth.

But last weekend's downpour delivered the first winter rains to most areas within these regions, giving many producers security for the season.

Geoff Duddy, who owns New South Wales consultancy Sheep Solutions, has spent more than 20 years working with sheep and wool producers across Australia.

Despite rain being forecast in the next 10 days, Mr Duddy said if clover was dead and the feed had "hayed off", there was a need for producers in this circumstance to plan and act.

Mr Duddy said slower pasture growth, high moisture and low levels of dry matter were common during a false break.

"Many flocks are close to lambing and the early green pick hasn't been able to meet ewe requirements," he said.

"Producers have had to implement higher rates of supplementary feeding or lot feeding, depending on available pasture levels, to try and meet feed needs."

Mr Duddy said the problem of underfeeding was worse for pregnant ewes and their progeny. "Single and twin-bearing ewes in the final stages of pregnancy have two to three times the energy requirements of a dry ewe," he said.

"Underfeeding during this period not only increases the risk of higher ewe and lamb mortalities but can have a negative impact on the unborn lamb's lifetime wool quality and cut per head."

Koorda producer Ray Sutherland, who runs a sheep and cropping enterprise, said the 14mm of rain he recorded over the weekend meant his Merinos would be well-fed until August.

"The pastures had really started to die off in the week before last weekend's rain," he said. "Now the lambs are looking good and the ewes are looking even better."

Mr Sutherland said he was glad to be able to avoid feeding his stock half-wet pasture.

He said the dry start to May had also delayed his plantings of wheat, barley, canola and lupins.

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