Scanning rates jump for lambing

Warning issued to Victorian producers to prevent lamb loss

ONLINE: Croxton East mixed producer Tracey Kruger (@tracey_kruger) has taken to Instagram to share her lambing experience with the online world.

ONLINE: Croxton East mixed producer Tracey Kruger (@tracey_kruger) has taken to Instagram to share her lambing experience with the online world.


Warning issued to Victorian producers to prevent lamb loss.


Livestock consultants are reporting a 15 per cent rise in scanning figures for ewes year-on-year.

While Victorian sheep producers are recording a jump in scanning rates across the state, experts are warning farmers to remain vigilant in their management procedures of pregnant and lambing ewes.

Additional feed and mild conditions have improved survival rates for late autumn lambs with marking rates also set to rise in the second half of 2020 for winter and spring lambing.

But the promising autumn flush has led to some industry leaders to warn about the potential risks ewes and lambs may face on the back of plenty of feed and improved seasonal conditions.

North-east Victoria Lambs Alive livestock consultant Jason Trompf, who runs a sheep and cattle farm at Greta, said scanning rates for Victorian farmers had been "significantly higher" in 2020 compared to previous years.

With an increase in scanning rates, the likelihood of twins and triplets is expected to rise which could prove more challenging for farmers to manage compared to previous years.

Mr Trompf said in some cases, higher scanning rates could lead to poorer lamb survival rates if not managed appropriately.

"There's two big risks for lamb loss in 2020; one is single bearing ewes receiving high nutrition during late pregnancy, and in the lambing paddock, resulting in dystocia due to excess birth weight," Mr Trompf said.

"The other relates to multiple bearing ewes with twins and triplets which can cause mis-mothering of lambs at birth or shortly after in the lambing paddock."

A way to mitigate the risk of excess birthweight in single bearing ewes includes restricting the nutrition "immediately" post-scanning up until lambing to restrict foetal growth.

"To reduce the risk of mis-mothering, it's all about ensuring privacy in the lambing paddock and there's a range of ways you can get that," Mr Trompf said.

"Reducing mob size of triplet and twin bearing ewes in order to reduce the number of fresh lambs born per day during lambing is one way.

"Another is providing shelter which is particularly important for multiple-born lambs that are often lower birth weight."

He said the onus was on farmers to achieve good survival rates that would deliver positive production and welfare outcomes.

"We don't get paid on potential, we get paid on performance," Mr Trompf said.

In south-west Victoria, prime lamb producer and livestock consultant Tim Leeming, Precision Lambing, Pigeon Ponds, said scanning rates were well above average this year.

His own commercial operation recorded its best scanning result in 26 years, with 1.86 foetuses per pregnant ewe, up from 1.76 last year and his best since 2011, when he recorded 1.83.

"Most people in the south-west are reporting improvements in the scanning rates by 10-15 per cent year-on-year," Mr Leeming said.

"We've now had very good seasons in a row and last year we had a later break but most people that are lambing in late June onwards can handle that late.

"We had a nice mild spring, dry residual feed over summer and a soften finish in the spring last year, and now we've had a top 10 per cent break in April which was a month ahead of normal."

Lambing online

Western District farmer Tracey Kruger had no idea her Instagram account would become a wealth of knowledge when she took to the social media platform during the recent lockdown.

How to collect colostrum to fostering orphan lambs are just some of the questions she's answered.

The Croxton East mixed farmer first decided to share her experience rearing calves and has since developed a strong following by those interested in how her late autumn/early winter lambing is tracking.

"I've taken people around the sheep with me while they're lambing, while I'm trying to find new mothers for ones that might have been abandoned, fostering the orphan lambs back onto new mothers ... the list goes on," she said.

Ms Kruger said her passion for sharing her farming experience came from her father's love of the land and her time growing up on a sheep farm at Warrnambool.

"Dad was very passionate about lamb welfare, he had a Poll Dorset stud, and every lamb's life was important to him," Ms Kruger said.

She said improved seasonal conditions had improved lambing percentages "significantly" among her Merino flock compared to last year.

"Farmers need to work harder at showing the great things that are happening on the farm every day and if that means sharing it to social media, then so be it."

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