Changes help Lake Bolac farm hit its peak

Changes help Lake Bolac farm hit its peak

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SUCCESS: Wirrinourt livestock manager Matt Charles, Lake Bolac, has implemented changes on-farm to increase lamb survival rates.

SUCCESS: Wirrinourt livestock manager Matt Charles, Lake Bolac, has implemented changes on-farm to increase lamb survival rates.

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The mixed cropping and livestock enterprise Wirrinourt at Lake Bolac has been transformed in recent years, and the results are outstanding.

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The mixed cropping and livestock enterprise Wirrinourt at Lake Bolac has been transformed in recent years, and the results are outstanding.

Smaller mob sizes during lambing, containment paddocks, split lambing, the end of mulesing and changes to pastures have helped the business to improve in almost every aspect.

The farm, owned by the Paterson family is on three sites north and south of Lake Bolac.

Each year the farm joins between 8000-9000 ewes, including 500 stud Merino and Poll Merino ewes.

Livestock manager Matt Charles said the changes meant the farm was reaching its peak.

"It's like a curve, you get to a certain point with your stocking rate and then your gross margin per hectare starts going down; we feel like we're at that point," Mr Charles said.

One of the key changes has been the introduction of smaller paddocks and mobs during lambing.

Having attended field days at Dr Steve Cotton's Meat & Livestock Australia Producer Demonstration Sites at Willaura and Tatyoon, where he saw the ongoing research into mob and paddock size and what temporary fencing may offer during lambing, he implemented changes, including smaller paddocks and mobs during lambing, and had immediate results.

"We picked up that mob size and paddock size has a massive influence on survival rates," he said.

In the first year at Wirrinourt, temporary fencing was used to split four paddocks.

The next year in addition to temporary options, permanent fencing was added along the front of plantations to create five-hectare paddocks.

The results were better than expected.

The first year they marked nearly 20 per cent more lambs than elsewhere on the farm.

With nine additional small paddocks the following year, there was again close to 20pc more live lambs than other areas.

"I pick the smallest paddocks as the first priority," he said.

"A lot of our twins won't be in bigger than a 10-hectare paddock and we have a maximum of 10 ewes to a hectare in any of those paddocks."

The farm has put the permanent paddocks in front of plantations and continues to use temporary fencing to split 20-hectare paddocks.

The success of smaller mobs and paddocks is just one of many improvements made in recent years.

"We're getting more intensive; we're probably lambing down about 2000 more ewes now than when I started three years ago," he said.

The increase has stemmed from improved pastures, with more annuals to increase carrying capacity, and containment yards used in February to May, allowing more direct feeding and retention of feed for the lambing period.

The farm now has 50x100-metre containment pens with attached feeding troughs.

"We put everything in there; all the breeding ewes, weathers, rams," he said.

"We can feed a bit less by doing that and it stops them baring out the pastures and stops pastures blowing over summer."

About 350 sheep are placed in the pens, but they still have ample room to roam.

"It cuts the job of feeding over summer, they're now in one spot; you can feed 10,000 sheep without opening a gate," he said.

The farm has an average stocking rate of 16.8 DSE per hectare.

"That's quite comfortable; if we go much higher, we'd end up feeding more and not getting the benefits," he said.

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