Home' Otago Southland Farmer : July 12th 2013 Contents 12.7.13 Farmer
A Consortium of AgResearch Ltd and Beef + Lamb New Zealand
There's no quick fix when it comes to lamb survival, but attention to condition will go
a long way.
Russel Welsh from the Waimea Valley near Gore has been involved in Ovita's lamb survival
programme for several years. Being based in Southland, he knows only too well that a bad
storm at the wrong time can be disastrous.
But while there's not much that can be done about the weather, he can control getting his
Tefron ewes in optimum condition, and attention to detail will mean lambs at a decent birth
weight. Obviously, shelter is very important, but so is producing robust animals.
"We've had winters where it may be warmer in the fridge than outside. The key to lamb survival
in those conditions is get the lambs up and suckling as quickly as possible and having the
mum in condition to produce the milk they need; giving a 60 percent greater chance of survival.
As part of the Lamb Survival programme, Mr Walsh autopsied the lambs that didn't survive
over several seasons and took DNA samples, to identify causes and see if there were patterns
in the deaths. While the results didn't point to any one cause, he has learnt a lot to fine-tune
feed management, and he still routinely records the cause of death, and weighs lambs at birth.
Growth rates are important, and he's honed in on the nutritional requirements of the ewes,
managing single-bearing ewes and multiples separately to ensure optimum condition for each
group. That may mean trying to put on an extra 2-3 kilograms on the ewes over the winter.
"It's incremental rather than major change, but every bit helps. Good information helps to
make better decisions."
Lambing & Calving
Scanning your stock
Scanning ewes prior to lambing
is now a common occurrence
on a farm, with the scanning
results achieved then used for good
decision making on a farm.
Not only does scanning predict with
a high degree of accuracy what
lambs the ewe is carrying, it can
help to improve the management of
the flock pre-lambing. By utilising
these scanning results they can
then be used to reduce overall feed
costs and at the same time ensure
that ewes are fed to meet their
nutritional demands pre lambing.
Once scanning has been completed,
ewes should be drafted into mobs
according to the number of lambs
they are carrying and their lambing
date and fed to ensure adequate
energy and protein in the six week
period pre-lambing. This will ensure
that ewes carrying twins or triplets
retain good body condition and bear
strong healthy lambs and also
produce a high supply of quality
Proper pre-lambing feeding is the
single biggest factor in reducing the
workload at lambing time. Treating
small weak lambs on thin ewes with
low milk yields can not only be time
consuming but often results in high
lamb mortality rates.
Protein in a ewe's diet in the latter
stages of pregnancy is also
important as a lack of this will mean
ewes will end up with a low supply of
poor quality colostrum.
Genetics companies urged
to eliminate small calf
New Zealand Animal Evaluation Ltd (NZAEL),
the DairyNZ subsidiary company that
manages the National Breeding Objective
for New Zealand dairy cattle, is encouraging and
welcoming moves by genetics companies
Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and CRV
Ambreed to work together and manage small calf
syndrome out of the industry.
Both LIC and CRV have jointly announced that
eradicating the genetic variation from the national
dairy herd is a priority.
NZAEL spokesman and DairyNZ Strategy and
Investment Leader, Dr Bruce Thorrold, says the
problem has been identified through farmer
reporting, combined with the latest genetic
''Each of these is vital to the industry, and this
latest response emphasises the importance of
data capture and sharing,'' he says.
''While this is a very small problem on New
Zealand dairy farms right now, it is encouraging to
see that the cause has been identified, that the
companies are jointly working on the issue and
that it will be solved as a priority,'' says Dr
''The breeding companies' strategies will prevent
the problem becoming more widespread.''
Dr Thorrold says recessive genes occur in all
populations, and the power of New Zealand's on-
farm data collection and research activity means
that these effects are identified while still at low
''That means the issue can be managed at an
industry level in a way that just wouldn't be
possible by individual farmers. Farmers'
confidence in the use of artificial insemination (AI)
should be increased by this result.''
He says NZAEL expects all the breeding
companies to work together to screen bulls,
share information and provide farmers with good
advice this spring about potential small calves
and mating choices.
NZAEL will be monitoring this on behalf of
farmers. It is also advising farmers to focus on
their record keeping.
''It is important for farmers to keep accurate
records of parentage.
''Our research shows that with the mis-tagging
and mis-recording that currently happens on dairy
farms, around 23 per cent of herds, or around
one million New Zealand dairy cows, are identified
to the wrong sire.
The LIC datamate or CRV Ambreed's sire match
can only protect cows whose parentage is
accurate,'' he says.
New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited (NZAEL)
is a wholly owned subsidiary of DairyNZ, which
manages the National Breeding Objective (NBO)
for New Zealand dairy cattle.
It aims to develop, promote and deliver
technologies that optimise genetic improvement
in the national dairy herd. NZAEL exists to ensure
relevant on-farm data is captured, data quality is
high, data is analysed accurately using world
leading analytical methods and outputs are then
applied in an appropriate manner.
Visit www.nzael.co.nz for more information.
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