Monday, 21 June 2010

Pregnancy Testing the Ewes

On Thursday 10th June 2010 Andrew Naylor from Canowindra came and pregnancy-tested our older ewes. There were several reasons why we wanted this done:
  1. It would provide us with an indication of how well the ewes were travelling health-wise under our management.
  2. It enables us to identify those that are not pregnant. We see little point in carrying 'breeding' ewes that don't in fact breed. Culling them sooner rather than later is in our view better all round in that we realise the cash from the sale, have less animals to manage, and have more grass available for the rest of the mob.
  3. By identifying single and multiple embryos we can forecast how many lambs are likely to be 'on-ground' when it comes time to do the marking.
  4. Had we decided to brand those with multiple embryos we then would have had the option of separating them out and giving them access to better feed which in turn increases their prospects for taking the multiple lambs through to weaning. We did not do this because our flock size is not large and our intent is to give all of the ewes access to the best of our feed.
  5. Our joining period was the bare minimum at 35 days (2 full cycles) and if the pregnancy percentage proved to be very low we would have the option of putting the rams back in with the ewes or maybe even getting other rams for the job.
The pregnancy test involves placing an ultra-sound device just near the front of the udder area and identifying from the connected display screen whether the ewe is pregnant or has multiple embryos. In the photo you can see the mini-tent that Andrew places over himself and the equipment. It is positioned at the end of the drafting race enabling us to more easily run the sheep up the ramp and into the crush where each ewe is individually held while the scanning is carried out. The process is very quick at in excess of 200 per hour, although we understand the throughput rate may have been 300 an hour had we been better at pushing up the ewes into the scanning structure i.e. the weak-link was our ability to herd the sheep.

We were pleased with the results (3% 'empty', 37% singles and 60% multiple) and found Andrew great to deal with. No fuss - and his system for setting up, using and removing his equipment was excellent.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Seasonal Sheep Price Variations

Tonight we had a call from our stock agent to de-brief us on the sale of our weaner wethers at Forbes on Tuesday 15th June 2010.

Whilst the wethers were on the light side they apparently looked excellent when penned up into the 3 lots - larger, main line and small. The agent commented that we should stick with what we are producing as they are the type of sheep the market is looking for.

We asked the agent whether there are any specific seasonal trends we should be aware of in the context of best time to buy and sell sheep. Some of the main points included:

  • 50 years ago prices used to peak in January / February as this was when the croppers were cashed up post harvest coupled with crop stubble to put the animals onto
  • In very recent times mixed farmers tend to sell stock so that they can fund cropping inputs such as fertiliser, seed and chemicals
  • Best time to buy stock in this region is when Victoria is in drought conditions and the local area is not
  • Lower prices are generally from March through May
  • Peak prices are January / February and August / September