After a barley crop proved too short to harvest, mixed farmer Neil Loffler, Narrabri, Stonefield, decided to lamb into the standing crop, and has reaped the benefits.
Neil, along with wife Elizabeth and son Russell, runs about 2400 hectares of owned and leased land, comprising a 1700ha cropping program of vetch, canola, barley, wheat and oats, as well as 1500 self-replacing Merino ewes.
The Lofflers are involved in the Meat & Livestock Australia producer demonstration site containment ewe project, with their ewes having been in confinement as early as August. They usually lamb onto stubbles, but lambing onto the standing barley crop significantly reduced supplementary feeding requirements.
"We certainly didn't have to feed them quite as heavily when they went onto the barley," Neil said.
"When they were in confinement they were eating a fair bit of feed, but their feed requirement dropped right off for three or four weeks when they cleaned that (standing) crop up."
The Lofflers join the top half of their ewe flock - regardless of age - to White Suffolk rams from Elton Downs, Karoonda, with joining taking place in October ready for a March/April lambing.
An older mob of these ewes was put on standing barley in December, with the remainder put onto stubble.
The bottom half of the ewe flock are mated to Merino rams from Glenville stud, Cowell, in November, placed onto wheat stubbles in December, and ready for an April/May lambing.
Neil reported a lambing percentage of 125 per cent for ewes mated to White Suffolks, which was "about on par" with percentages in previous years.
But he said the provision of adequate feed when lambing started had proven effective.
"It definitely seems to work better when the ewes already have a ready supply of paddock feed when they start lambing. Some other years they eat the best of the stubbles out before lambing and that doesn't seem to be as successful," he said.
Prior to being put into the standing crop, the ewes had been on a grain-based diet in containment, with help from Barossa Improved Grazing Group technical facilitator Deb Scammell to determine ration amounts.
Rations - supplied along with hay - were determined by whether ewes were carrying twins or singles.
"We usually start feeding rations to the ewes just before they start lambing, this year we fed the (twin-bearing ewes) a lot earlier, and we seem to be getting a better percentage of survivors in the twin mobs," Neil said.
TILLAGE RADISH BEING TRIALLED FOR FIRST TIME
STONEFIELD'S Neil Loffler has sown tillage radish for the first time this year, with the hope of providing an alternative and palatable nutrition source for his sheep flock.
"We heard about tillage radish through some blokes who had sown it as part of a trial, so we have sown 25 hectares this year," he said.
The tillage radish was sown about a fortnight ago, and Neil said he was hoping for rain to see how it would go, before making decisions on stocking rates on the radish.
"It's just coming through now, we'll have to wait before it gets properly established before we can graze on it," he said.
Tillage radish, which reaches maturity between 10 and 12 weeks after sowing, is also useful for breaking through hardpans - which existed across half of Neil's farm.
"The radish root that goes down is supposed to be good for opening up hard-setting soils," he said.
Neil hoped to graze weaned Merino and crossbred lambs on the tillage radish, before selling them over-the-hooks a couple of months later.
Crossbred lambs are first sold over-the-hooks in July/August, with Merino ewe lambs not being retained generally sold the following month.
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