One of the Ovita-funded research projects that continues to attract considerable support from farmers New Zealand-wide is its Lamb Survival Programme.
Directed by AgResearch scientist Dr Julie Everett-Hincks, the project has since 2007 built up a huge database with performance records of over 200,000 NZ lambs. Farmers have already contributed a substantial amount of pedigree (via SIL), lambing records and post mortem data and NIWA has provided appropriate weather data. This has produced an invaluable knowledge base of the factors that influence lamb survival across very different environments and lamb genotypes.
"One of the most significant findings so far in improving lamb survival is the importance of lamb birth weight. Lambs born of optimum birth weight (5-6kg) have the highest survival rates. Genetic and management methods can be adopted to improve birth weight. Sire selection is very important and also feed allocation throughout pregnancy to maintain ewe body condition. "Identifiying lamb birth weights and cause of lamb death are key to developing a plan to minimise losses," Dr Everett-Hincks said.
The project has taken a systems approach, with guidelines and recommendations developed alongside the on-going genetic data collection and Breeding Values work to ensure all New Zealand farmers gain the benefits. "Lamb survival is something each farmer can monitor and address for themselves, whether its monitoring and maintaining ewe body condition, allocating more feed at critical times, paddock selection or introducing proven more accurate genetics through sire selection. It's about identifying the limitations and opportunities that affect each farm, and coming up with a plan to lift performance and profitability."
"Our aim is to make a significant difference to lamb profitability on farms New Zealand-wide, something we're already making progress on thanks to the massive amount of interest and committment from farmers involved.
This technology is a result of New Zealand farmer investment in Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Ovita.
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