A POTENTIALLY devastating late break to the season has delivered better than expected lamb marking results for most producers, with average to above averages achieved for Merino flocks.
Across the Mid North, lamb marking was "acceptable" according to Nutrien Ag Solutions Jamestown livestock production specialist Daniel Schuppan.
While lamb survival was not where producers would have preferred, he said it was still a solid lamb season.
"Compared to what was scanned, lamb numbers were lower because so many producers struggled with feed," he said.
"Operations that dropped later lambs did struggle, whereas generally they would not."
But within the challenges during this season, Mr Schuppan said some good stories still came out of the year.
"Some of the best performing flocks in the state had about 90 per cent survival and lifetime ewe practices definitely contributed to that," he said.
"A combination of feed issues, milk fever, pregnancy toxemia and low birthweight lambs exposed to extreme weather conditions effected survival."
On the flip side, Mr Schuppan said if it was not for producers implementing best feed and scanning practice this year, it could have been a "disaster".
At the whim of the seasonal conditions was first-cross lamb performance with lamb survival lower than past seasons and BM Livestock's Budgie Schiller, Eudunda, said the early lambing meant paddocks were bare.
"It would have been difficult for those lambs to perform," he said.
Most parts of the district had about 120pc for lambs marked, with average percentages generally about 110-115pc, he said. In the pastoral areas, he said rain had helped improved lambing, compared with past seasons.
"The ewes did not have the milk and the lambs performed based on that," Mr Schiller said.
"But a lot of producers put a lot of feed into ewes early and that worked dividends and lamb results were surprisingly good."
Merritt Livestock agent Owen Merritt said most of the South East was in "good order", with rates ranging between 120-170pc.
"The area has a lot of composite ewes and they generally have high lambing marking percentages but the area did have a good start so most breeds performed," he said.
"I would say above average results have been achieved by most."
It was a "horrible" wet July and August in the region, Mr Merritt said, causing some lamb losses.
"Even October was cold and wet but lamb weights are still on-par with last year," he said.
The quality of suckers has only just been realised with big numbers beginning to hit saleyards now and Mr Merritt said, despite numbers being good, they were slightly back on past seasons.
Some producers have lost between 5-10pc of lambs, according to Treloar Farms Rural Contracting's Jason Treloar, Keyneton.
About 150 millimetres fell in July and August and Mr Treloar said the season brought mixed results with it.
Though later in the season, once the rain arrived, higher percentages were reached.
Echoing other stock agents, Mr Treloar put most lamb production challenges down to the dry conditions rather than anything else but said the real story came out of SA's northern pastoral district.
The district has battled through drought-like conditions for more than four years, causing many pastoralists to abandon joining ewes because of the risk.
But with a potentially better season on the cards, some ran the gauntlet once again and subsequently had their best lambing season in years.
"They received the rain and percentages were between 105-115pc," Mr Treloar said.
These figures come off the back of 40-70pc figures in the past few years.
THIS year, a Riverton mixed-farmer has hand-fed ewe flocks more than any other season but, despite the considerable outlay, the lamb marking results certainly proved it was worthwhile.
The season delivered just more than 100 per cent for lambs marked for Sam Przibilla but a fair few twin lambs were lost because of the dry start.
Mr Przibilla had dealt with the effects of late starts for many seasons and had pushed lambing back by a couple of months to ensure adequate feed was available.
"It did not work this year, the break was even later so we were handfeeding for a fair while," he said.
"Generally, we get about 110-120pc, so it was not a disaster but it could have been if we did not feed hay and grain like we did."
Mr Przibilla runs about 800 Merino ewes and scans ewes about two to three months prior to lambing to separate the pregnant ewes in twins and singles.
"The scanned in-lamb percentages was great but once they hit the ground there were issues," he said.
"After this season and losing too many lambs, we will most likely try to move lambing two to three weeks later again."
Mr Przibilla said despite the colder conditions in mid to late June, lamb survival rates were better with more feed. Trail feeding ewes in the paddock did not translate to solid lamb survival rates so lick feeders will be used from next season.
"We also had hay from last year which helped but we won't continue trail feeding," he said.
Despite the challenges of this year, Mr Przibilla believed once the rain arrived, sheep performance caught up, if not surpassed last year.
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