Good feeding, top genetics the key
Wakefield Farm stock manager Lindsay Dawson, left, discusses lamb growth rates with farm owner John Lindsay.
Good feeding and top genetics are the key to achieving high lamb growth rates on Wakefield Farm.
John and Mary Lindsay are currently finishing about half of their total works lambs at 18kg carcass weight before the end of December.
Early lamb finishing and hill country development was the focus of a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Meat the Future Farming for Profit field day on their property last week.
The Lindsays farm almost 6000 Wairere Romney breeding ewes and 1800 ewe hogget replacements on a total of 1418 hectares at Dipton West.
The diverse farming operation also includes cattle and deer, which are farmed for both venison and velvet, and wholecrop barley.
However, sheep are the main focus and they make up about 70 per cent of the total stock units at Wakefield Farm.
The Lindsays run a mainly Wairere Romney ewe flock and they mate their two-tooths back to Wairere rams, to produce their replacements.
Their mixed-age ewes are mated to Poll Dorset-Texel rams and the resulting progeny, which are half Romney, quarter Poll Dorset and quarter Texel, are then mated to terminal sire rams.
''We'd gone as far as we could with the Wairere.
''The Poll Dorset Texel has added hybrid vigour, increased fertility with the Inverdale gene and the loin max and myo max genes for improved meat yield,'' John said.
About half of Wakefield Farm is flat while the balance is native and oversown hill country.
Hill country development has played a big part in making the most of the exisiting land area and they have lifted the stocking rate from 2 stock units to 10su a hectare.
The Lindsays employ stock manager Lindsay Dawson, who has worked at Wakefield Farm for the past 18 years, and they also take on casual staff.
Lambing is staggered from mid August which enables the Lindsays to achieve a good premium for their early lambs.
They are achieving a lambing percentage of 157 per cent (ewes to ram) but it has been as high as 163 per cent and lamb losses were currently about 11 per cent.
John, who is currently a director of the Alliance Group, said they key to maximising lamb survival was to set-stock ewes onto pasture covers of 1500kg of dry matter per hectare.
The ewes are ''fit not fat'' and body condition score from weaning to set-stocking is maintained at a minimum of 3 and light ewes receive preferential feeding.
''The biggest influence on overall lambing percentage is reducing the number of light ewes,'' John said.
They still carry out traditional lambing practices such as spray marking twin lambs and mothering-on orphan lambs and use electric fences to divide up poorly shaped paddocks and to fence off ditches.
Triplet lambs are left on unless ''dropping off'' and assisted ewes and their lambs are diverted to the terminal mob.
The terminal sire lambs are left with their tails intact and ram lambs are not castrated.
''We found that with our lambing spread the early lambs were due to be tailed when the other ewes were lambing.
''It was easier to leave them with long tails.''
With 49 per cent of the works lambs off the farm before Christmas at an average 18.1kg, John has no intention of tailing them again.
''If you cut something off a lamb it will slow it down for a period.''
The lambs are weaned at about 95 days old when they are an average 32.5kg liveweight and they are drafted for the works at an average 37kg.
In 2012 they tailed 9642 lambs and by December 22 they had killed 3953 lambs with 3989 still to be slaughtered with another 1700 replacements retained.
That same year they achieved growth rates of 534 grams/day for the singles and more than 400 grams a day for the twin and triplet lambs.
John and his stock manager Lindsay Dawson has decided against lambing the hoggets because of the farm's ability to dry out in the spring and summer.
''It's not worth the risk.
''The hoggets are already 45kg and we want to keep them growing,'' Lindsay said.
Owned by John and Mary Lindsay
1418 hectares in total
316ha of native tussock (from September 2010)
332ha of (hill) oversown tussock
-100ha deer fenced
-40ha oversown swedes
-40ha oversown young grass
770ha on flat
-100ha deer fenced
-75ha new grass
-4343 mixed age ewes
169 breeding cows
112 rising one year steers
116 rising one year bulls
144 rising one year heifers
35 rising two year steers
35 rising two year heifers
64 rising two year in calf/replacement heifers
6 breeding bulls
563 mixed-age hinds
22 rising two-year hinds
212 mixed-age stags (velveting)