Without measuring sheep growth rate, you won't manage
At 80kg/ha of daily grass dry matter growth, the hill at Lyons is looking as well as it has in many years. This is the portion of the farm which is dedicated to sheep grazing during the summer.
While we refer to it as the hill, it might be more accurate to simply describe it as high ground. A considerable portion of this has been reseeded in recent years, which has also helped increase herbage supply on these paddocks.
Twin lambs have grown at a rate of 290g per day over the first eight weeks of their lives. Single suckled lambs have gained at a daily rate of 340g during the same period. This means the twins and singles have a live-weight of 20.5kg and 24kg at eight weeks of age respectively. This is slightly ahead of target for lambs at this age. Target live-weights for singles at five and 10 weeks of age are 16.5kg and 27.5kg. For twins these figures are 14kg and 23.5kg.
These figures represent a sheep-only enterprise. The targets should be at least 1kg higher for a mixed grazing set-up.
But how many sheep farmers really know what growth rate they are getting out of their lambs? I'm sure many people are tired of me saying this but 'If you don't measure, you can't manage'.
Recording growth rate on a representative sample of your lambs will reveal what your lambs are doing, thus allowing you to take remedial action if required. But it will also enable you to benchmark your performance against targets and industry norms. Additionally, recording growth rates is a qualifying task for STAP.
In order to achieve this, you will need some reliable method of identifying your lambs and a measure of their birth dates and weights. It becomes quite a simple practice then to weigh these lambs each time they move through the handling unit.
Despite the good performance of our lambs, these figures actually represent a drop in growth rate over the last two weeks. This is not completely unexpected. At this stage the ewes have passed their peak milk production. This occurs at three weeks after lambing for twin suckling ewes and five weeks after lambing for single suckling ewes.