30 November 2001

Dont neglect benefits hoggets can offer farms

HOGGETS are often treated as second class citizens, but when tupped and managed with care, overall farm profitability can be enhanced.

Careful hogget management can add an extra 20% to a seasons lamb production, Leon Black, winner of this years Lincoln University Foundation-Rabobank Farmer of the Year title, told congress delegates. "More than 80kg of extra stock/ha can be weaned by lambing hoggets."

The sheep with the best reproductive potential are also identified. "This can add a further 20% to future performance," said Mr Black.

But hogget lambing must be planned in advance and should not be attempted on farms with unreliable feed patterns, health problems, high mortality or poor fertility. Careful planning and steady growth of the hoggets is essential to ensure a good result, he added.

His system used successfully over the past 10 years involves sires with narrow shoulders and shallow brisket depths. Mr Black feels ram shape is more important than breed.

All hoggets are teased in advance and he runs rams at a ratio of 1:90 for 21-27 days. He is happy to use ram lambs, and sees no problem in semen quality or libido. "Remember your teenage years," he added.

As for feeding he is happy for hoggets to steadily gain weight through the autumn as both the dam and foetus are growing. After scanning, feeding levels can be altered. "You cant over feed a hogget with twins," he says.

To avoid birth problems, he believes in lambing on a short pasture cover to ensure hoggets do not have a bellyful of grass and become bloated. His closing words were "Work for your hoggets, if you want your hoggets to work for you."

Lambing hoggets can identify those most likely to improve flock performance in the future.