Trials aim to boost lamb survival rates
A range of dietary additives showing the potential to improve the viability of newborn animals when supplied in utero are undergoing the first comprehensive trials in sheep in Australia.
The Meat and Livestock Australia project aims to identify compounds with the biggest potential to boost a lamb’s ability to survive and thrive in late pregnancy and the days immediately after birth.
If successful, these will contribute to higher whole-flock productivity and profits onfarm.
The “New approaches to increase the weaning rate of the national sheep flock” initiative is one of 12 on-farm research, development and adoption projects to receive MLA investment in 2017-18, instigated through the organisation’s regional consultation process.
This process enables red meat producers to have input on the direction of funding that is most relevant to them for their environmental conditions.
Previous MLA research has recognised poor lamb survival pre-weaning is a major source of reproductive inefficiency in the national sheep flock and this new investment will help producers fine-tune their nutrition and management tactics.
MLA program manager — sheep R&D and objective measurement Richard Apps said it was particularly targeted at finding dietary supplement options for twin-bearing ewes in the second half of gestation but would also apply to ewes carrying a single foetus.
The project is led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute in collaboration with the University of Adelaide.
Phase one started this year at SARDI’s Turretfield Research Centre, where a team of sheep reproductive biology experts is testing a range of the most promising dietary and biomedical compounds for increasing energy stores in foetal lambs and/or reducing the risks of damage from any oxygen deprivation during the birth process.