Choice of shearing time on the Monaro is perhaps a more vexed question than at any other location in Australia. The vast majority of merino ewes are joined to lamb in the late winter – spring period and in order to avoid the discounts associated with low tensile strength and mid break many of these flocks also shear pre-lambing so placing the point of break in the weathered tip of the staple. The downside to this management technique is the potentially serious weight loss of ewes prior to lambing and its impact on the lambing process and in extreme weather events the serious risk of ewe losses to hypothermia.
As an alternative to feeding more, various methods have been employed to reduce chill stress. The use of “snow combs” in order to maintain greater wool length off shears, the use of sheep coats and more recently the application of Thermoskin have been tried. All these technologies seek to prevent animals getting wet, reduce skin exposure to wind or increase the level of insulation. The question is just how effective are they at reducing the level of chill and reducing weight loss without additional nutritional input.
A trial supported by Monaro Farming Systems was conducted on the property of Colin Murdoch at Ando to compare the impact of various treatments on off shears live weight and fat score of late pregnant merino ewes. The treatments included a Control, Snow Combs, Sheep Coats and Thermoskin.
230 ewes were shorn and then divided into groups of 50 across each of the treatments.
For results, discussion and conclusions see the attached Report.
Project Funders and Collaborators: NSW DPI, MFS and Colin Murdoch, Ando.