Matt and Lynley Wyeth
Spring Valley Farm, Masterton
Supplementing high performance ewe and offspring
Our five year paddock average for ewes scanned with triplets was 180%. I saw the potential for boosting performance of high performance ewes by grain feeding during a trip to the United Kingdom in 2011.
In 2012 we trialed a short term housing and grain-based feeding strategy with 1400 triplet bearing ewes. There are a lot of things in farming that are beyond our control, but we thought achieving a 250% survival rate was a possibility.
The system performed way above expectations, and we achieved a weaning rate of 263%. The Advantage Feeders Next Generation Feeders was integral to the system to provide adequate nutritional to the ewes in a labour efficient manner with no waste. Stock lick the feed through a double adjustable slide mechanism and can only eat so much before their tongue dries out.
A grain based high protein pellet feeding starts about three weeks before lambing at a controlled rate of about a 100g a day.
Back in the paddock, the newborn lambs quickly learned to use the feeder from their mothers, eating about 130 grams a day over the next fortnight. The lambs grew noticeably faster with the early rumen development.
The feeding program was accompanied by early weaning at 50 days compared to our traditional 90 to 100 days. The weaned lambs went ahead really well on grass with an average weight gain of about 280 grams a day.
If there are any issues of grass supply in the future we could re-introduce the Advantage Feeders at any time as the lambs are familiar with them now.
There had also been huge grass feed savings by turning the ewes back onto harder hill country immediately after weaning. The ewes have benefited from the early weaning and have scanned 21 % higher the following year compare to the traditional weaned ewes
Yard weaning calves
We have already found other uses on the farm. We used the Advantage Feeders in the yards with mobs of 100 weaner calves. 50 on each side.
They quickly got used to a new diet of about a kilo a day of crushed barley fed over seven days. They had an average daily weight gain of 0.88 kg at a time when they are normally going backward. Having familiarised the young cattle with a grain ration, gives us the option of break feeding during winter.
We add magnesium which helps quieten the calves down and reduces stress levels. Instead of going backwards at weaning, they are putting on weight and really bound ahead when back on pasture. We also find that compared to paddock weaning the cattle become a lot quieter and easier to handle.
We decided to test the theory that cattle would perform better on a more balanced diet. We trialed comparing cattle finished only on a brassica crop to another mob on brassica which also received a kilo a day of a grain-based ration. The crop was analysed to determine the nutritional balance needed with the nuts helping boost carbohydrate intake.
We achieved an excellent 2:1 conversion of feed to live weight gain. The cattle with supplement putt on about an extra 500 grams/day over the last 50 days before slaughter. This extra live weight gain was worth an extra $1.25, providing an attractive return on his outlay of 70 cents a kilo on customised grain-based nuts.
The feeders are really robust with a large holding capacity and the dual adjustable slides allow you to accurately control the ration stock are getting. We’ve certainly learned a lot with the Advantage Feeder and the results are exceeding all expectations. They have been vital in realizing our goal to get more kilos of product out the farm gate and improve our bottom line. We’ve got six now and between the sheep and cattle they are in use much of the year. They have proved to be a very good investment.