Producer workshop focuses on boosting lamb survival

Barossa sheep producers have learnt about farm management practices to improve lamb survival at a workshop in Flaxman Valley.

The workshop, organised by Rural Solutions in conjunction with the Barossa Improved Grazing Group, featured presenters Jason Trompf, J.T. Agri-source, and Gordon Refshauge, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and provided producers with strategies for minimising lamb losses.

Kapunda producer Clyde Hazel and his daughter Sarah were among 28 participants in the workshop.

“While I’m reasonably comfortable with my current lambing performance, I am always interested in reducing lamb losses and improving the welfare of my animals,” Clyde said.

“I’ve found this type of practical workshop to be wonderful in the past, and Sarah has joined me for her professional development; as an agriculture teacher this information is invaluable for her.”

Presenter Jason Trompf said there were steps that producers could take to improve lamb survival.

“The first 48 hours of a lamb’s life are critical. Mismothering and dystocia (difficult births) are the most common causes of lamb losses,” he said.

The workshop presented key management practices to improve survival rates including management of ewe nutrition, genetics, feed on offer and mob size.

“Ewe nutrition is the number one factor to ensure lamb survival. Maintaining a good condition score can reduce birth trauma, mismothering, and improve birthweight, milk production and lamb growth rates,” Dr Trompf said.

The condition score needs to be maintained at CS3 from early pregnancy, and then after scanning at 90 days, single-bearing ewes can be maintained at CS2.8-3, while twin-bearing ewes require CS3.0-3.3.

Feed on offer in lambing paddocks is important. The ewe requires sufficient feed available so she does not have to leave the birth site, which allows for improved bonding with the new born lamb.

Ram and ewe selection can have a significant effect on survival rates. Excessively large lambs or small lambs can result in dystocia or starvation respectively. Where high birthweight issues occur, particularly with maiden ewes, producers should select rams with low Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for birth weight. Ewes that consistently fail to rear lambs should be culled from the core breeding flock.

Mismothering can be minimised through improving mob management. Smaller mobs can help reduce the risk, with recommended targets of fewer than 200 for twin-bearing ewes and 400-500 for single-bearing ewes. Reducing both mob size and stocking rate gives the lambing ewe more privacy  resulting in less disturbances during lambing and therefore  better bonding and  improved mothering.

A key strategy Dr Trompf recommends is adequate data collection.

“Lamb marking is an excellent opportunity to collect useful data that can help producers plan their next lambing season,” he said.

“I know everyone is under pressure and often producers struggle to get time to collect data, they’re just flat out marking but my advice is if there’s ever a day in the year that it’s worth getting an extra pair of hands, it is lamb marking day. That way you’re using the opportunity to collect the data you need to maximise lamb survival in the future. Lamb marking day for sheep producers is equivalent to yield mapping for cropping enterprises”.

The workshop was sponsored by AWI and SheepConnect.

For more information on lamb survival, visit