The innovative feedlot competition attracted widespread support from Mid North producers, as well as the Eyre Peninsula, South East, Lower North and Broken Hill, NSW.
The competition – the first of its kind in SA – was separated into three categories, with the commercial Merino/SAMM/Dohne section receiving 34 entrants, the commercial crossbreed section attracting 21 teams of lambs, and 14 teams entered the stud sheep category.
In late February the three lambs for each team were delivered to the Saltbush Ag feedlot, Booborowie, and fed for six weeks on a single feeding program before being sold over-the-hooks to TFI, Murray Bridge, in April. Each lamb was electronically tagged to monitor its individual performance.
Competition organiser Leith Tilley said the support from entrants, sponsors and the wider industry was exceptional.
“The aim of the competition was to reward growth in lamb value in the feedlot, rather than carcase quality traits, with lamb teams judged on their aggregate percentage value gain,” he said.
“We were certainly surprised by how well the Merino lamb teams went compared with the crossbred teams. Some of the individual Merino lamb performances equalled the weight gain and growth of the best of the crossbreds and we didn’t expect that.
“It shows how many people are moving towards a dual-purpose Merino.”
Mr Tilley said the big surprise was the variation between animals. He expected the teams to have more consistent performance.
Even among the winning teams there were significant variations, highlighting the importance of individual identification.
“Another interesting result was the average weight gains, which dropped off after day 42 from 250 grams a day down to a final average across all the teams of 215g/day,” Mr Tilley said.
“We would have expected better average daily growth rates.”
The winner of the TFI sponsored crossbred category was Clyde Hazel, Kapunda, with his team of Poll Dorset-Merino lambs achieving a 70.4 per cent gain and an average daily weight gain of 276g/day. The carcases dressed out at 51.7pc.
First prize in the Platinum Ag stud sheep category was Ben and Matt Shipard, Glenroys Poll Dorset stud, Kimba, with an overall gain of 69.4pc on their entry weight, a DWG of 252g/day and a dressing percentage of 50.6pc.
Yallunda Flat farmer Brad Claughton took first and second in the Landmark Merino/SAMM/Dohne section. His winning SAMM lambs achieved an overall gain in growth of 80pc, along with a 307g/day DWG and a dressing percentage of 51pc.