This season has been incredibly wet at Bonavaree, the total average rainfall has been reached already, and there are still 4 months to go! The ewes and lambs have shown remarkable resilience to this wet, with very high lamb survival rates, even when the weather was at its worse.
The ewes have lambed in very good condition and with an exceptional milk supply, and the lambs have been able to endure the wet at birth. Increased lamb survival may also be due to their having a good amount of brown fat reserves at birth (Brown fat is the first source of energy in a newborn lamb). Lambs that mobilise the brown fat, are able to get up faster, and suck and are therefore more likely to survive wet and cold conditions. This was certainly tested this season with 8 inches of rain since lambing started.
At Bonavaree, the emphasis is on feeding stock extremely well throughout the entire year. The ewe flock is predominately Highlander ewes, with either: Texel, Lamb Supreme, Poll Dorset, or Highlander sires. These sheep breeds are high producing, high fecundity animals, and therefore have increased energy demands, especially when carrying multiple foetuses. Doug and Fraser insist that the feed supply must be good at lambing “if feed at lambing is poor, then early lamb growth is poor, and that will never change. The ewe’s milk supply will NOT increase as time goes by…it slowly decreases”. Feeding ewes well in late pregnancy has also been shown to increase the amount of brown fat in newborn lambs, making them more robust at lambing and better able to stand inclement weather conditions.
Glen Erin paddock is a Bonavaree mix of Lucerne, Prairie Grass, and Plantain. This pasture type is essential to the Avery’s system to provide good quality winter/early spring feed. With large areas of pure lucerne stands on the farm, Doug has maintained that “the dormancy of Lucerne in winter must be built into all systems” and this is one of the reasons this mix is used.
Pasture growth has started with the Prairie Grass showing signs of regrowth even though stock are still grazing this paddock. The Prairie Grass regrowth is slightly pale, and shows that the sun levels have been really poor over the last month. Doug and Fraser are expecting to use vitamin B12 injections in their lambs to combat poor animal growth due to lack of sun.
Lambing has mostly finished now in the Glen Erin Paddock. Two year old Friesian Bulls will soon be introduced to this paddock. Cattle are mixed with sheep when the lambs are old enough to escape from the cattle if needed.
Bloat capsules are used on any cattle that are grazed on lucerne, or the Bonavaree mixed stands. Fraser is planning on giving the cattle their boluses now, before they are moved to the improved paddocks. The Bloat capsules give approximately 100 days protection from bloat, so are administered now because the cattle will be at a finished weight before that time. Doug and Fraser also see improved weight gains in cattle that have received bloat capsules, because it modifies the rumen environment to produce better rumen conversion of feed.
Key Bonavaree messages:
“Always feed animals well, no skimping or there will be a permanent penalty to production…you must feed your sheep!”
“Winter dormancy of Lucerne must be built into the system by growing other types of feed”.