Lambing percentages are tipped to vary widely in flocks across the state, based largely on the amount of supplementary feeding producers have undertaken.
Lambing season is in full-swing but many are still pinning their hopes on widespread rain this week to stop the relentless task of feeding ewes.
Landmark animal production specialist Daniel Schuppan praised producers for being on the front foot in trying times, feeding pregnant and lactating ewes to keep them in good condition.
He had heard reports of some March lambing flocks in the Upper South East on lucerne achieving 110 per cent lambing percentages, but said most producers across the state were yet to mark their lambs.
“Lambing conditions have been mild, which has helped lamb survival. but with slow lamb growth rates we will probably see some (producers) delay their lamb marking to avoid stressing them,” he said.
Mr Schuppan said many producers with little paddock feed were reassessing their hay and grain stocks and some were making the tough decision to sell ewes with young lambs at-foot.
“Back in January and February we had budgeted supplementary feeding to the end of May, but it has been an extraordinary start to the season and many fodder sources are coming to an end,” he said.
“Especially outside Goyders Line, even if they get a good rain soon it will be four to five weeks before they can stop feeding and for many, where do they get hold of hay and grain.”
AgriPartner Consulting principal consultant Hamish Dickson said the economics of supplementary feeding ewes had added up in most flocks, due to outstanding wool and meat prices.
“Even though feed prices are up and feeding rates are up it has been a positive decision to make not to be offloading pregnant ewes,” he said.
But Mr Dickson acknowledged after months of feeding many producers were assessing when “enough was enough”.
“The best management is to make sure they hold their ewes in as good a condition as they can and not back off in the lead up to lambing,” he said.
“If they have to back off feeding, do it after – this is far less problem than trying to feed them back into good nick with lambs on them.”
He said many flocks in the “inside country” had variable conception rates but given the focus on feeding and mild lambing conditions were likely to enjoy “above average” lambing percentages.
However, it had been a different story in pastoral areas where conception and lambing rates had been lower too.
Cousins Merino Services’ Michelle Cousins said pregnancy scanning rates had been highly variable, dependent on producers’ ability to manage their ewes and the amount of feed available.
They had seen as low as 60-75pc in some pastoral flocks experiencing a very dry season, up to 135-150pc in the SE where it has been a more “traditional season”.
“We saw an increase in clients scanning for twins this year because they knew they needed to utlise their feed effectively and most chose to destock their drys (ewes),” she said.
“Those that re-mated dry ewes in this later period experienced poor conception rates, due to the dry conditions.”