A south-west Victorian farmer has narrowed down his joining period to a precise 15 days and he said it has everything to do with continuous improvement.
Tim Leeming weans 10,000 lambs a year on his Balmoral property and in the past 20 years has learned a thing or two about precision lambing.
In a recent episode of Australian Wool Innovation's The Yarn podcast, Mr Leeming said he was always striving to improve his results, in particular his conception rates and lamb survival.
He said he had always been big on collecting and analysing on-farm data, whether it be mob data or paddock records.
"Over the last 10-15 years, I've been involved in lots of programs and research trials that really focused on how maternal sheep performed under different feed available or different weather conditions and so on," he said.
"After all that, we've developed a system that we think is consistently performing as far as lamb survival."
But he said it wasn't an easy process as lamb survival was a "game of one percenters".
"It comes down to lots of Excel spreadsheets and lots of different paddocks with [specific] mob sizes as mob size is something that has been proven to be a big benefit for lamb survival," he said.
"We noticed that back in 2005 and there was a lot of whinging [we did] to some service providers to do that research but it did prove what we already knew."
He said mob size was just one important factor, and there were "many different things" you had to focus on and improve.
"Over the years we started off with a six-week joining, then went to five then four, and now we lamb over 15 days and we have pretty strategic breaks in between," he said.
He said his aim was to make the period as "nice and neat" as possible.
One of his techniques was putting out vasectomisedrams as teasers for 12 days prior to joining.
Another useful technique was analysing what paddocks were best suited to what type of ewes.
"Does that paddock suit the pregnancy status of that ewe?" he said.
"What are the implications of lambing there as opposed to there?"
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He encouraged breaking your paddocks up into different types.
"Every farm, whether you farm at Streatham or Strathalbyn, has good, bad and pretty ordinary paddocks to lamb in," he said.
"Being able to look at your environmental asset - your farm - and go 'where do my prevailing winds come from?', 'where are they going to hit me?' and 'what paddocks are going to give me the best results to weather those storms?' - that's what precision lambing is all about."
Battling hills on his 1500-hectare property, he chose to lamb his triplets in the gullies, twins on the hills and singles up the tops of the hills.
"We've got some of the best paddocks in the region with our nice, north-east facing valleys," he said.
"But we've also got the tops of the hills which are 300 metres above sea level and there are no red gum trees up there, so they are some of the worst paddocks in the region."
He said getting the placement of these ewes right was crucial.
"From experience, there's nothing more disappointing that when you've lined up your feed on offer and condition scored and done everything right, and then you're driving around your ewes because there's horizontal rain and frosty conditions and you're throwing twin-born lambs in the back of the ute that are as dead as a door nail," he said.
"That's happened to me a few times and it's expensive and it hurts."
He said you then needed to look after those good paddocks so you could re-use them.
"We lamb and we then spell that paddock for two and a half weeks and we get our feed levels back up to where we want them to be to optimise mismothering and intake and then we lamb again and go again," he said.
Mr Leeming, who is also a ewe consultant, said he had been very fortunate to be involved in industry programs such as the Lifetime Ewe Management course.
"The design of the course was extremely innovative and was new as far as extension went because of that on-farm practical side of it," he said.
"It wasn't classroom-based, you went to each other's properties and did a lot of repetition in condition scoring and assessing the feed on offer.
"It did more than teach, it bonded farmers together, and that was the power of it."
He believed the industry still had a lot of room for improvement when it came to lamb survival.
"A lot of the Lifetime Ewe Management groups split into BestWool/BestLamb groups or other farming groups, but it'd certainly be a massive asset if anyone could tap into the next step as we've still got miles to go as far as improving the reproduction in the industry, and that's right from fine wool to prime lambs," he said.
"Let's put our heads together and try to tap into that."
You can read more of Mr Leeming's tips for precision lambing at his website.
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