Winning With Weaners goes online

A screenshot from the special Winning With Weaners webinar held on 28 May, which was recorded and is available now on the Sheep Connect NSW website.

AWI’s popular Winning With Weaners workshop was held online as a webinar in late May. The free webinar, which summarised the key actions for woolgrowers to lift the lifetime performance of their young Merino sheep, was recorded and is available now to all woolgrowers across the country.

INDUSTRY RECOMMENDATIONS TO LIFT WEANER PERFORMANCE

  • The Target Weaning Weight should be 45% of your Standard Reference Weight (the average weight of your mature ewes when not pregnant, bare shorn, condition score 3, no gut fill)
  • Have a 5-week joining period to avoid a tail in the weaner mob
  • Train lambs to eat supplementary feed prior to weaning
  • Use best practice lamb marking procedures (vaccination, hygiene, pain relief, etc.)
  • Wean no later than 14 weeks from the start of lambing
  • Manage lighter weight lambs separately and feed them to achieve the target growth rates ASAP
  • Wean onto high quality pasture where possible and/or supplementary feed
  • Provide high quality, clean drinking water
  • Ensure good internal parasite control (monitoring and effective drenching)
  • Regularly monitor weaner liveweight to reach target growth rates.

We all know how difficult weaners find their first year of life, right? Weaner ill thrift results in poor growth and fertility, reduced wool cut and wool quality (especially staple strength), increased susceptibility to disease (especially worms) – and can lead to high mortality rates in young sheep up to one year of age.

Weaner ill thrift and its associated mortality are the fourth most costly sheep disease to the Australian sheep industry (behind neonatal mortality, internal parasites and dystocia, but ahead of flystrike and all other diseases). While there are multiple concurrent causes of weaner ill thrift and mortality, they are all primarily related to animal management and husbandry. Genetics only has a small effect.

So to help woolgrowers improve weaner management of their Merino flock, in 2018 AWI launched a single-day workshop called ‘Winning With Weaners’. The aim of the workshop is to get a minimum of 95% of weaners surviving to one year of age, but also to thrive and be productive at hogget joining and throughout their life. The workshop identifies key practical actions and tools for commercial enterprises to implement on-farm to achieve this performance aim.

Winning With Weaners has become hugely successful and is made available across the country in conjunction with accredited and licensed deliverers, via AWI’s State Grower Networks, typically with about 15-25 participants per workshop.

However, the face to face workshops were temporarily suspended due to restrictions on people’s travel and gatherings in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In response, AWI’s grower network in NSW, Sheep Connect NSW, organised a special Winning With Weaners webinar that was held on 28 May. When restrictions on face to face gatherings are lifted, the hands-on workshops will resume across the country.

More than 220 people from across Australia registered to view the webinar (69% of viewers were producers and 25% were advisors) which was presented by experienced sheep consultant and project manager of Sheep Connect NSW, Megan Rogers, who is based at Forbes. The hour-long webinar was a condensed format of the usual single-day workshop. Megan presented and talked to 30 slides in that hour.

“Proactive weaner management can set up your young animals for a productive, profitable and performing contribution to your flock and business.”

Megan Rogers

“With seasonal conditions improving for many, the time is right to capitalise on opportunities for good management, and weaners are a group of animals that will benefit from some additional proactive management – and pay you back for it for years to come with productivity,” Megan said.

“While the topics are covered in greater detail in the workshop, the webinar contained all of the key content that woolgrowers need to know to set their weaners up for a lifetime of production. It included the costs of weaner ill thrift, strategies to mitigate its effects and key must do’s for successful weaner management.”

The webinar was recorded and is available to be viewed free at any time on the Sheep Connect NSW website. When viewing, you can pause and go back to a previous section in the webinar if you want to recap a particular point.

“I encourage any producer who missed the webinar to view the recording. Don’t miss this opportunity to upskill on weaner management – your weaners and bank balance will thank you for it,” Megan added.

The following related handouts are available at www.sheepconnectnsw.com.au/tools:

• Weaner management checklist

• Feed budget tables for Merino weaners, including how to calculate: Target Weaning Weight for your flock, weaner liveweight targets at various ages, and feeding requirements.

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