Early nutrition enables fast lamb growth at Akeringa

Early nutrition enables fast growth at Akeringa

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CONSISTENT LINE: Dave Charlick, with second-cross lambs at Akeringa, Padthaway, has improved his sheep management with split weaning.

CONSISTENT LINE: Dave Charlick, with second-cross lambs at Akeringa, Padthaway, has improved his sheep management with split weaning.

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Using Suffolk genetics in their terminal cross is helping Dave and Megan Charlick turn off lambs quickly at Akeringa, Padthaway.

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USING Suffolk genetics in their terminal cross is helping Dave and Megan Charlick turn off lambs quickly at Akeringa, Padthaway.

The Charlicks run 3000 breeding ewes, with the sheep operation comprising 1200 Merinos and the remaining first-cross ewes that are joined to terminal sires.

Also in the mix are 230 Angus cows, about 200 hectares of lucerne seed production under flood and pivot irrigation, 200ha of barley, wheat and canola cropping, and a 200ha vineyard.

The Charlicks breed their own first-cross ewes with Morton Border Leicester rams used over Gum Hill-blood Merino ewes.

The terminal cross genetics are from Andrew Frick's Gypsum Hill Suffolk and White Suffolk stud.

"We use predominantly Suffolk rams because they seem to do well here, and the wool's not worth anything so I don't worry about the black," Mr Charlick said.

Mr Charlick is selecting rams mainly on structure and type, with feet and structure a high priority as he's in a traditionally high rainfall area.

He also only uses sires that aren't grain-fed prior to sale.

"One of the big reasons I buy Andrew Frick's rams is because they don't feed them up before the sale, so I can put them in the paddock and they maintain their weight," he said.

"I don't want them dropping any weight prior to joining, which two months after his sale."

All second-cross lambs are sold, usually through JBS at Bordertown.

"We're aiming for 22 kilograms carcase weight," Mr Charlick said.

Lambing starts in mid April, onto lucerne pasture which has been irrigated after the lucerne seed harvest.

Mr Charlick has trialled a new split weaning program this year, to make sure lambs are weaned at more consistent ages and weights.

"When we scan for twins, singles and dry ewes, we separate twins and singles, then we've also separated the early and late lambs from the eight-week joining," he said.

"In the past we've weaned everything at the beginning of August, with shearing from the last week of August, but this year we weaned the early ones in the beginning of August and the later lambs weaning a few weeks later, which gives them a bit more time on mum.

"When we're waiting for the late ones to stop lambing, the oldest lambs are 6-8 weeks-old, so they're bigger. We'll wean our tops, and split them in two mobs visually, then by weighing 100 in each mob. The top lambs this year were 39.5kg and the bottom half was 33kg."

Our liveweight goal is 52kg, to dress around 22-23kg, and the Suffolks don't have any problems getting to the right weights. - DAVE CHARLICK

There's no issue with growth in the Suffolk genetics, but nutrition plays its part, with the lambs having access to barley from birth.

"They have lick feeders with barley, even on mum, so they know how to feed before weaning," Mr Charlick said.

"Then they're moved to onto lucerne in mid September, if we're not cutting it for hay, and we'll keep them on there for as long as we can.

"We've got barley lick feeders out there as well and hay to stop them from scouring, and we're looking at increasing the minerals in their diet to boost weight gain."

Some years, the Charlicks are able to turn off the top lambs after a week or two on crop, and generally, they're sold by the end of January.

"Our liveweight goal is 52kg, to dress around 22-23kg, and the Suffolks don't have any problems getting to the right weights."

The couple also has access to a good first-cross ewe market, with some of their ewes sold through the 1.5-year-old Naracoorte blue ribbon sale in November.

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