Farming Together boosts sheep group’s feed-focus

Farming Together

Type: Case Study
Knowledge level: Introductory

4 December 2017: Feed testing has now become a regular event on Steve Jarvis’ NSW sheep property, a direct beneficial result of participating in the Farming Together program.

The South West Slopes poll merino breeder is also now feeding his flock more regularly after farmer group discussion days proved the improved return on costs.

Farming Together funded the discussion sessions for the Boorowa/Harden sheep farmers with vet and farm management consultant, Andrew Whale from Hamilton, V.

Other farmers in the group have reported less dystocia, with lower ewe and lamb mortality rates, and best-ever lamb marking results following improved nutrition – all due to the consultation sessions.

An Australian Government program, Farming Together helps primary producers Australia-wide form co-ops and collaborations to secure better margins and boost farmgate returns.

Others in the group are Bill Hurley, Oscar Smith, Keith Smith and Jamie Brown. Altogether, the farmers manage a total flock of about 15,000 in country averaging 640mm annual rainfall. Good weather conditions, coupled with reproduction advice from Andrew, has seen better fecundity and lambing averages, Steve said, adding that increasing grain allocation to the ewes had improved body condition.

“Before, I was reluctant to supplementary feed the animals, it was an extra cost I didn’t like. But now I know a lot more about the economics and the gain you get from feeding. And feed testing is something I do now.”

He has also started selective feeding. “We treat sheep more individually. Instead of just feeding the whole mob of sheep, I pick out the lighter ones and feed them up. It’s saving me feed and time,” he said.

Steve said Andrew’s experience as a vet was also invaluable. “In the past when lambing hasn’t gone well, for example lamb mortalities, he’s now helping us understand why. He’s put a reason behind what’s gone wrong, or right, and now we know how to repeat – or avoid – it.”

He added that the sessions have been useful for forward-planning for seasonal challenges: too much rain at lambing, or too little rain in summer.

The group has also been receiving advice from agronomist Janelle Jenkins, discussing options for improving pasture as well as thistle and barley grass infestation.

Steve said: “Every time we have a meeting we learn something. And we also learn from each other. It’s been really good. And while it’s hard to put a dollar value on it, it’s about managing the flocks better. We’re all