Management key to improving wool profitability

New England wool producers are being encouraged to tap into the significant opportunities that exist to improve the profitability of their merino production systems.

The opportunities have been identified from the New England Tablelands site of the AWI funded Lifetime Wool Project (LTW).

Within the reach of every wool producer, they involve the adoption of best practice guidelines based on fat score targets, pasture benchmarks, and the use of a range of technologies and management strategies.

Producers will hear the details at a series of three meetings planned for Deepwater (November 23), Armidale (November 24) and Walcha (November 25).

LTW Project leader and NSW DPI livestock officer, Michael Lollback, said the research had emphasised the critical role of adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.

‘We also have a better understanding of the vital importance of the period between weaning and joining in setting up the flock for a successful joining and subsequent lambing,’ Mr Lollback said.

‘An analysis of rainfall records has indicated that the winters on the New England tablelands have got even tougher in the last 50 years and the rainfall pattern has become even more summer dominant.

‘This makes it imperative that feed grown during the spring, summer and autumn periods is used efficiently to prepare the breeding flock for the unfavourable conditions in the winter and the critical late pregnancy period.’

The LTW project involved monitoring the performance of two mobs of ewes and their progeny that were subjected to high and low nutrition regimes during pregnancy and lactation. Full details will be on show at the meetings in Deepwater, Armidale and Walcha.

Mr Lollback said while the team expected the ewes and their progeny from the superior fed mob would perform better, it was a surprise to find the margin for error was very small.

‘By fat scoring and weighing the ewes on a regular basis it was possible to measure the difference in condition between the two groups,’ he said.

‘The difference in the performance of the ewes and particularly their progeny as a result of a relatively small difference of 0.3 of a fat score was significant.

‘The low nutrition ewes cut 0.48kg or 18.2 per cent less wool than the high group ewes and progeny of the low group cut 0.40kg or 30.5 per cent less than those of the high group.

‘Differences in wool quality traits and between single and twin born progeny within each treatment group were also significant as was the growth rates of the progeny.’

He stressed there were significant changes to profitability from these differences.

The results provide an important guide for the design and management of merino production systems on the tablelands and led to the development a set of fat score benchmarks for the critical stages of the production system. This will ensure that both ewes and their progeny will perform closer to their genetic potential.

Pasture production data collected during the trial has provided the opportunity to more precisely define pasture benchmarks required to achieve these fat score targets.

Further information on the LTW project can be obtained from Michael Lollback on 02 6763 1257.

Media contact: Annette Cross on 02 6763 1243 or 0427 201 840.