Food Futures Institute
 

Working with sheep producers to improve lamb survival

Murdoch researchers have developed best practice management guidelines for breeding ewes that collectively improve the survival of lambs by ten to twenty percent.

 

Areas of research

Animal Production and Health

Lead Researcher

Associate Professor Andrew Thompson

 

What was the need for this project?

Murdoch University is a national leader in sheep research, with a special focus on sheep reproduction systems.

Improving the reproductive performance of sheep by increasing the survival of multiple born lambs is one of the highest priorities of the Australian sheep industry.

 

How the project was completed

Murdoch researchers, led by Associate Professor Andrew Thompson, led a research project that directly involved sheep producers across more than 150 farms in southern Australia.

They monitored ewes from before mating until the lambs were approximately six weeks old, as well as utilising a national database of information on the reproductive rates of ewes.

The aim was to deliver improved recommendations for sheep producers regarding the allocation of ewes to paddocks, paddock size, stock density and feed on offer during lambing.

 

Results and achievements for this project

Researchers found that preferentially feeding ewes carrying multiple lambs during pregnancy to meet specific condition score targets at lambing and reducing the number of ewes lambing at the same time in individual paddocks improved survival rates.

The Murdoch team has also been instrumental in developing two industry training programs—Lifetime Ewe Management and Bred Well Fed Well. These programs have delivered best practice management guidelines to more than 10,000 sheep producers managing about 50% of the national ewe flock or 20 million ewes over the past decade.

On average, producers that have participated in these programs have increased the number of lambs weaned per ewes by more than 5%—representing an extra 1 million lambs per year.

 

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