6 top tips for running a low-input sheep system

UK farmers often look to New Zealand for answers on running a low-cost, efficient sheep system.

Here are some Kiwi top tips for running a streamlined enterprise.

See also: Cornish sheep farmer undergoes New Zealand style revamp

1. Key to success is lambing on to an adequate grass supply.

2. Use a breed that suits your environment with good constitution, structural soundness and productive traits.

3. Females

  • Set targets for scanning percentage, lambing percentage and lamb weaning weights.
  • If you haven’t met targets, do not feed trade stock at the expense of breeding stock – this is a false economy.
  • Pre-lambing shearing can prevent casts and encourage shelter-seeking.
  • Select for twins, unassisted lambing and vigorous newborns with good survival.
  • Only keep good mothers that select a protected lambing site, know how many lambs are theirs and will not leave their lambs when you’re tagging.
  • Don’t breed from ewes that have let you down.
  • Successful mating of ewe hoggets is the best indicator of early maturity and genuine fast growth.
  • High growth and muscularity are male traits; retain only pregnant hoggets to achieve a maternal balance.
  • Any ewes requiring assistance at lambing, or that didn’t rear lambs, should be moved to a B flock and mated to a terminal sire.

4. Rams

  • Only use performance-recorded rams from breeders who are selecting for low-input sheep.
  • Buy rams that have been farmed under commercial conditions.
  • Choose high-vigour, high-capacity rams (1:100 ewes) with a top dam history.

5. Apply selection pressure to the whole flock to highlight underperformers – keep plenty, cull hard.

6. Get body condition score right and avoid high fluctuation in bodyweight as much as possible.

Source: Wairere NZ Romneys

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