With many southern Australian farmers gearing up for lambing over the winter months, new workshops are being rolled out to help producers boost their lamb survival rates.
The Towards 90 program aims to achieve lamb survival rates of 90 per cent and beyond in across single and twin-bearing ewes.
Funded by Meat & Livestock Australia, the program being is delivered by industry consultants across southern Australia and is a collaboration between several industry service providers including Thrive Agri Services, neXtgen Agri, Paradoo Prime and Murdoch University.
Dr Andrew Kennedy, from Thrive Agri Services, said the T90 program had a strong focus on reproduction performance.
"While the T90 target lamb survival rates may seem ambitious, the program demonstrates how it is possible for enterprises to move towards this target, with the implementation of a range of key management practices," he said.
Fellow project lead, Tim Leeming, Paradoo Prime, said it was largely about pulling together proven management strategies.
"We've got all this stuff that we know can improve our reproduction in Merino and prime lamb sheep businesses, but we just weren't getting it implemented," he said.
"We wanted to put together some really practical modules focusing on key components of sheep reproduction."
The program consists of 10 modules that cover the range in best practices that span the reproductive cycle of sheep, including adults, maidens, and ewe lambs.
The main goal is to not only generate more lambs to sell, but achieve it in a sustainable approach from economic, environmental and welfare perspectives.
These modules consist of joining length, pregnancy scanning, managing maternal condition score, lambing preparation, weaning management, carryover reproduction, joining ewe lambs, beyond ewe lambs, maximising ewe potential and time of lambing.
The modules are delivered through four main delivery channels; T90 Focus Farms, Field Days, Exchanges and Teams.
There are two different ways farmers can take part in the T90 program.
"One of the ways is to join a team, where a group of five or six farmers undergo three or four sessions at the opportune time, say lambing preparation for instance," Mr Leeming said.
"Each producer implements the recommended practice changes to a degree they are comfortable with, for example, reducing mob size or managing to achieve target conditions scores, under the guidance of a facilitator."
The second way to be involved in the program is through an Exchange.
"In Exchanges, participants visit the property of a demo farmer who is implementing the T90 practices for the first time," Mr Leeming said.
Participants get to learn about and observe the T90 practices with the aim of adopting them on their own properties.
In addition to the T90 Teams and Exchanges, the program is also supported by the T90 Focus Farms, which are large scale enterprises that implement the T90 practices open their farms for T90 participants to view their operations.
The Focus Farms are geographically spread across southern Australia, hosted by Nigel and Kate Kerin, (Kerin Poll Merino), Yeoval, NSW, Clayton and Polly South (Tahara), Wagin, WA and Tim and Georgie Leeming (Paradoo Prime), Pigeon Ponds, Victoria.
Lucy Fenton, Vasey Farm, Victoria is currently undertaking the lamb preparation module and said following the T90 field day at Paradoo Prime she was sold on the idea.
"The people who spoke at those days, are people that everyone in the livestock industry should be listening to and learning from," she said.
"They are so generous with the knowledge they are willing to share."
Ms Fenton said she was keen to hear about the "one percenters" that make an impact on planning for lambing.
"This year, we have implemented the Leemings precision lambing plan for all the first cross ewes, and so far the proofs in the pudding," Ms Fenton said.
"With 1500 lambing now and another 1600 to lamb at the beginning of July, we can utilise the same paddocks to optimise them for best lamb survival.
"It's allowing us to implement the information we are learning at T90 seamlessly, things like small twin mobs, splitting up paddocks, ensuring there is sufficient shelter and making sure there is optimal feed on offer."
Ms Fenton said she highly recommends the program to anyone looking at improving reproduction practices on their farm.
"Even if you think you know it all, there is so much to learn," she said.
"The group discussions and the demonstrations we are setting up are great."
"Tim has always encouraged us to talk and share information so we can learn from our peers just as much as you can learn from him."
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