Sheep grazier tri­als meth­ods to beat dry

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - COLUMN -

A NSW sheep grazier has just re­vealed the de­tails of a new an­i­mal health pro­gram he’s re­cently im­ple­mented to boost live­stock per­for­mance in the face of the state’s re­cent and wide­spread drought.

Farmer Alex Will­son and his wife Steph run Kala­ree Poll Merino, a stud in the South­ern Table­lands re­gion.

They breed fine/medium poll meri­nos over three prop­er­ties, yet chal­leng­ing weather con­di­tions have forced the drought-af­fected farmer to take new steps to en­sure the sur­vival, wel­fare and prof­itabil­ity of his stock.

“Cur­rently we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a very dry year with just un­der half of our an­nual rain­fall,” said Alex.

“And so we’ve im­ple­mented a range of mea­sures to com­bat these dif­fi­cult con­di­tions and keep our an­i­mals alive.”

Alex ex­plained how the first of these mea­sures, the in­tro­duc­tion of lick feed­ers, al­ready had an im­pact.

“In­stead of trail feed­ing, we’ve in­vested in feed­ers to give our ewes and grow­ing lambs con­sis­tent ac­cess to grain, which is a ra­tion of wheat and buf­fer pel­lets. Since do­ing that, we’ve seen a de­crease in mis-moth­er­ing, a con­sis­tent con­di­tion score in our ewes, an im­prove­ment in milk­ing, and gen­er­ally bet­ter health in both lambs and ewes.”

Fol­low­ing ad­vice from Delta Agribusin­ness agronomist James Cheetham, Alex planted highly pro­duc­tive graz­ing crops in­clud­ing As­cend Rye­grass, graz­ing wheat and Hy­ola 970 Canola.

“These va­ri­eties have been bet­ter able to make use of what lit­tle rain we’ve had this year, pro­vid­ing tar­geted graz­ing to carry us through the worst parts of the drought and im­por­tantly add value to our busi­ness by fin­ish­ing stock at record prices.”

Alex also made the de­ci­sion to move away from cross-breeds and fo­cus pri­mar­ily on meri­nos.

“For us, it’s about in­creas­ing our scale as a sin­gle en­ter­prise. Mov­ing to an all merino ewe base en­ables us to take ad­van­tage of their wool and meat pro­duc­tion – and we avoid sea­sonal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and get­ting caught hav­ing to carry ewes and lambs through win­ter. We also made the de­ci­sion to sell our cows, which has proven a wise move due to the on­go­ing dry.”

He ex­plained how the in­tro­duc­tion of a nu­tri­tional sup­ple­men­ta­tion pro­gram (de­vel­oped by Matthew Hal­lam of Land­mark) had played an im­por­tant role in main­tain­ing an­i­mal health.

“We’ve added AD&E pre-lamb­ing, a starch-based loose lick high in cal­cium and mag­ne­sium, and a starch-based lick for lambs on graz­ing crops to im­prove ru­men func­tion.”

In ad­di­tion, Alex is also run­ning his own trial with Mul­timin trace min­eral in­jec­tion, as part of the Mul­timin Per­for­mance Ready Chal­lenge, a 12-month pro­gram run by an­i­mal health com­pany Vir­bac Aus­tralia.

The trial gives a group of seven farmers, in­clud­ing Alex, the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence first hand the ben­e­fits of Mul­timin in­jec­tion, with as­sis­tance from ex­pert men­tors.

Chal­lengers re­ceive a tai­lored nu­tri­tion pro­gram de­vel­oped by lead­ing in­dus­try men­tors – and each chal­lenger is shar­ing their Mul­timin pro­gram re­sults and ex­pe­ri­ences on so­cial me­dia (#mul­ti­m­in­chal­lenge), with a win­ner an­nounced in May 2019 as judged by the chal­lenge men­tors and pub­lic.

Un­der the su­per­vi­sion of Cooinda Vet Hos­pi­tal vet Dr El­iz­a­beth Bram­ley, Alex is cur­rently treat­ing 355 of 710 lambs with Mul­timin 3 in 1 trace min­eral in­jec­tion for sheep, with the other half used as a con­trol group.

Af­ter a first treat­ment in Septem­ber, they’ll be weighed again next month prior to pro­cess­ing, to mea­sure av­er­age weight gain of treated ver­sus un­treated lambs. Alex is look­ing for­ward to gain­ing greater in­sight into the ef­fects of us­ing Mul­timin.

“This is set to be a very in­for­ma­tive trial, and I’m proud to be a part of this study,” he said.

“We’re hop­ing that Mul­timin can ef­fec­tively in­crease the im­mu­nity and pro­duc­tion of our lambs, and that we’ll see an in­crease in weight gain trig­gered by greater over­all health.”

Vir­bac prod­uct man­ager and nutritionist Dr Jerry Liu is ea­ger to see the up­com­ing re­sults.

“When used strate­gi­cally dur­ing pe­ri­ods of high de­mand, Mul­timin has been shown to op­ti­mise fer­til­ity and im­mu­nity in live­stock. How­ever, for­mally tri­alling the prod­uct in such chal­leng­ing drought con­di­tions on a real, well-man­aged prop­erty will pro­vide a lot of sci­en­tific in­sight for the fu­ture.

“We should al­ways seek best prac­tice and look for in­no­va­tive ways to face some of the chal­lenges we have in live­stock. The Mul­timin Per­for­mance Ready Chal­lenge is a unique op­por­tu­nity for in­no­va­tive gra­ziers like Alex to ob­serve the ben­e­fits of fol­low­ing a pro­gram like this.”

Jerry said Mul­timin con­tained three trace min­er­als that aid in re­pro­duc­tion and im­muno­com­pe­tence, via a bal­anced ra­tio of zinc, man­ganese and se­le­nium that by­passes the ru­men for di­rect up­take from the blood.

Mul­timin is de­signed to top up es­sen­tial trace min­eral lev­els dur­ing high de­mand pe­ri­ods, such as join­ing, lamb­ing, wean­ing and for young grow­ing stock.

“In­creas­ing op­ti­mal lev­els of trace min­er­als in young sheep will have an im­pact for the farmer’s prof­itabil­ity and re­turn on in­vest­ment,” he said. “Mul­timin as­sists with im­prov­ing an­i­mal health, and hence max­imises their pro­duc­tion po­ten­tial.”

The Mul­timin Per­for­mance Ready Chal­lenge has given Alex the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove both live­stock per­for­mance and ul­ti­mately his fi­nan­cial bot­tom line.”

In­ter­ested farmers can sign up for con­tin­u­ing up­dates on the Mul­timin Per­for­mance Ready Chal­lenge at www.mul­ti­m­in­chal­lenge.com.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

GIV­ING IT A GO: New South Wales farmer Alex Will­son.

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