Stanley Vale Merino Stud - News & Views

More work to be done on lamb survival rates

Updated August 19, 2015 17:08:55

Lamb mortality rates are a major cost to the Australia's wool and sheepmeat industries and researchers say graziers need to fine tune their operations to increase lamb survival.

Cold and wet winter weather in recent days has seen sheep graziers warnings from the weather bureau and cold conditions are certainly implicated in lamb deaths.

Farmers at recent lamb survival workshops in the New South Wales central west, heard some sobering facts and figures from researcher and veterinarian, Dr Gordon Refshauge.

Dr Refshauge said lamb mortality costs are a huge impost on the Australian industry.

"In an industry that is worth $540 million annually, 10 per cent of the gross value of that industry is lost in neo-natal lamb survival," he said.

"Not surprisingly, that makes it one of the most important issues facing the industry; not just economically but it's also a serious welfare issue."

Dr Refshauge said lamb mortality was something the Australian industry needed to concentrate on, to bring the local industry more in line with the much lower mortality rates seen in European countries.

So, what is killing Australian lambs?

Farmers were invited to bring fresh lamb carcasses to this workshops this week, for Dr Refshauge to perform autopsies and find cause of death.

With an audience of attentive landholders, Dr Refshauge dissected a series of lambs, each showing distinctive and individual indicators of survival times and varying degrees of short term survival success.

Some of the lambs had been cleaned by their dams, some showed signs of having suckled, some showed signs of infection in the umbilical cord.

Once the autopsy continued into the spinal column and the cranial cavity, many of the lambs showed sighns of dystocia, or birth obstruction.

The closer you look, the more reasons you can find for the cause of death.

Dr Gordon Refshauge, veterinarian and sheep industry researcher

Lambs that have suffered injury as a result of a long and hard birth have a reduced chance of survival.

"The closer you look, the more reasons you can find for the cause of death," Dr Refshauge said.

"We do quite a gross assessment and it puts the majority of these lambs in the group affected by dystocia."

Dr Refshauge said were are a number of issues which would have an impact on the duration and ease of a ewe's delivery and each of these can be addressed separately.

He said a large proportion of Australian sheep producers still do not scan their ewes, either for single lambs or for twins.

"Not enough ewes are pregnancy-scanned in Australia, so most producers can't put a number against the level of mortality," he said.

"The best estimate we have is that about 30 per cent of Australian ewes are being scanned, more crossbreds are being scanned than merinos, and more in the tablelands than in the slopes and plains."

Topics: sheep-production, wool, agribusiness, livestock-welfare, animal-nutrition, dubbo-2830, cowra-2794, goolma-2852, mudgee-2850, canowindra-2804

First posted August 13, 2015 14:09:09

Original author: Sally Bryant



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