Breeding for multiples at Windella

Breeding for multiple lambs using Ovastim injection at Windella


Sheep
James Burge, Windella, Cootamundra, with a mob of composite ewes and their three to four-month-old second cross lambs. Picture: Rachael Webb

James Burge, Windella, Cootamundra, with a mob of composite ewes and their three to four-month-old second cross lambs. Picture: Rachael Webb

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James Burge said it is about improving the numbers of lambs on the ground, and increasing the kilograms of lamb produced per hectare.

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AIMING to run less ewes and produce more lambs, Cootamundra local James Burge is focused on ewe fertility and promoting multiples within his operation.

Along with his wife Sally, Mr Burge runs the 1200 hectare property Windella where they normally join around 2000 composite ewes.

For the Burges it is about improving the numbers of lambs on the ground, and increasing the kilograms of lamb produced per hectare.

Although management and nutrition is number one according to Mr Burge, they have been trialling the use of Ovastim, a product aimed at increasing ovulation rates, to promote the amount of multiples, to get more lambs out of less ewes.

"We have been trialling the product for three years, this will be the fourth using it," he said. "We inject half of a mob of sheep with the product, ear tag them and then run them with the un-treated sheep. They are all under the same conditions nutritionally and ram wise.

"At scanning we draft them off into injected verse non-injected ewes, and check the scanning results to see if the treated group has conceived more multiples, before they are drafted into mobs for management and lambing."

Always predominately producing multiples, including roughly 70pc twins, 20pc singles and 10pc triplets, Mr Burge said they have seen mixed results that could be attributable to the season and nutritional issues.

"We have been trying to up lambing percentages, and it seems to be doing that but we have had mixed results," he said. "You cannot just inject ewes and hope to get the results. You need to manage the flock well, especially nutritionally. If not, it could go the other way, with more lambs aborted as ewes try and compensate for the dry conditions - management is number one."

Ewes are usually joined the first of January to kick off lambing from the first of June, while maiden ewes are joined from mid-February for a mid-July lambing.

In the first year two injections were given, the first nine weeks before joining and the second three weeks before joining. Every year after that the ewes get one shot three weeks prior to joining.

Mr Burge said it had been a cost effective and cheap experiment to improve their numbers on the ground.

"With the price of lamb and sheep at the moment, and the first round of Ovastim costing about $4 a head and then $2/hd every year after that, you don't need to sell many more lambs to pay for it," he said.

The Burges aim to keep ewes at a 2.5 to 3 body condition score all year round.

"They are fed a high protein, high energy ration during the drought to keep them in that condition," he said.

"We have creep feeders with barley and converter from day one of lambing. The ewes lamb in smaller mobs on grazing crops."

"It's about more numbers - more kilograms of lamb per hectare," James Burge. Picture: Rachael Webb

"It's about more numbers - more kilograms of lamb per hectare," James Burge. Picture: Rachael Webb

Quick turnover for more recovery

In line with Cootamundra sheep producers James and Sally Burge's focus on more numbers of lambs on the ground, they tend not to hold on to their lambs to get them to big weights.

"We want to produce more lambs, and get them off quicker, to let pastures recover," Mr Burge said.

"We want the ewes to recover and get back in lamb, it's all a numbers game for us - more kilograms of lamb produced per hectare.

"It depends on weather conditions but we sell a lot as restockers on AuctionsPlus ... we don't have to handle them too much and can get them on the ground and off the place as quick as possible. If they are big enough as suckers they go over-the-hook through Woolworths, Coles or TFI (Thomas Foods International) - whoever has best rate at the time."

The story Breeding for multiples at Windella first appeared on The Land.

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