A national project hopes to find out the best supplementary feeding strategies for ewes to ensure lamb survival.
A new research project led by Murdoch University will delve into whether supplementary feeding using self-feeders or trail feeding has better results for lamb survival.
The research will also involve more intensive work later in the project, which may investigate impacts of the time and frequency of feeding or explore alternative methods like broadcasting lupins.
The project is co-funded by Meat & Livestock Australia Donor Company, Australian Wool Innovation, Murdoch University and Charles Sturt University, and also involves collaborators from Nutrien Ag Solutions and Dynamic Ag Consultancy.
Murdoch University researchers Amy Lockwood and Serina Hancock are co-managing the project, which aims to collect data from over 35 on-farm research sites across across Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and NSW
Dr Lockwood said they were currently in the recruiting phase, searching for producers willing to get involved.
"We're really keen to get some good outcomes from the project to provide guidelines to producers for supplementary feeding to help them improve their lamb survival rate," she said.
"This project was sparked out of the lambing density project we ran a few years ago... we had a lot of producers asking how they should go about supplementary feeding their lambing ewes to optimise lamb survival, for example what time of day to feed at, how frequently they should feed and whether using self-feeders or trail feeding provided better outcomes.
"That's how we came about putting a proposal together and getting the work funded."
Trial sites for the first experiment comparing the impacts of feeding with self-feeders or trail feeding on lamb survival will need a minimum of 300 single-bearing and 160 twin-bearing ewes.
Ewes will be allocated into a treatment at approximately 140 days from the start of joining, designating whether ewes are fed with self-feeders or via trail feeding.
The project commenced last year and will continue over the next two years, with researchers collecting a range of data, including some gathered by remote technology to investigate impacts of supplementary feeding on ewe behaviour.
Dr Lockwood said there were currently differing opinions within the agricultural community as to what method of supplementary feeding was best.
"Some producers like self-feeders because the ewes come and go as they please, but you hear from some producers that, particularly with twins, the ewes will come up to the feeder and one or both of the twins will lay down and as the ewe leaves they don't follow," she said.
"Other producers believe that trail feeding is worse because when you drive into a paddock with a feeder the ewes come flocking towards you and this can cause mismothering especially if the ewe has recently lambed.
"Improving lamb survival is a big focus for the industry and this project aims to equip producers with an extra strategy to improve their marking rates."
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