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.

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