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Lifetimewool pays off for Australian woolgrowers
03
Nov '08
The annual payoff to the wool industry from the national Lifetimewool project has been estimated at a conservative $15.4 m, a figure which is expected to grow further as sheep producers steadily adopt key research findings.

The seven-year Lifetimewool project is now being concluded on schedule and it's clear that it is providing a major impact for wool growing and prime lamb enterprises.

AWI General Manager, Wool Production, Lu Hogan said key findings have already been adopted by more than 3000 producers.

“Modelling shows us that the benefits can vary from $0.40/ewe per year to as high as $7/ewe per year, though the average annual benefit is $2/ewe per year, meaning the total benefit across 3000 farms so far is approximately $15.4m annually.”

Ms Hogan said the Lifetimewool project has been a $10 million investment, including $7million from wool producers and AWI, to develop practical ewe management guidelines that are backed up by rigorous science and economics to optimise lifelong ewe and lamb productivity.

Project investors included AWI, the Department of Agriculture and Food in WA and Department of Primary Industry in Victoria, with support from other state Agriculture Departments, private consultants and more than 200 wool growers right across Australia who have hosted research and demonstration sites. Notably, the Robertson family, 'Austral Park', near Coleraine hosted a key research site.

Ms Hogan says the major findings from Lifetimewool were that improved nutrition of the ewe during pregnancy resulted in higher lamb birth weights, marking percentages and improved lifetime wool production from the progeny.

“The average micron of the progeny's fleece will be reduced as a result of improved nutrition of the ewe during pregnancy and this benefit is lifelong.”

In addition, the ewe also benefits through increased fleece weight and staple strength and better reproductive outcomes.

More importantly, these changes in production and profitability can be confidently predicted from knowledge of ewe condition scores through the year.

"By understanding the economic relationships between ewe condition and performance we can now generate specific recommendations for industry,” Ms Hogan said.

General ewe condition recommendations:

Late winter-spring lambing on green feed - 1. Aim for condition score (CS) 3 at joining, and 2. Allow moderate CS loss (0.3) from joining to Day 90, provided that condition can be regained on green feed before lambing.

Autumn lambing on dry feed -1. Aim for CS 3 at joining, 2. Maintain or allow moderate loss (0.3) from joining to Day 90, and 3. Maintain that CS from Day 90 to lambing.

These guidelines have been shown to be robust under varying on-farm situations. However, the absolute amount of benefit from following these recommendations will depend on other factors such as flock genetics, the cost of supplementary feeding, the time of lambing, access to green feed during pregnancy and local environment and climatic conditions.

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