A survey of producer practices and reproductive performance of containment and supplementary fed ewes

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Abstract

Containment feeding, where ewes are fed complete rations, is used to maintain flock numbers in periods of inadequate pasture supply. Producer practices influence both the reproductive performance of ewes and the risk of health challenges. The aim of this study was to evaluate the reproductive, feeding and health management practices of producers using containment or supplementary feeding, and quantify any associations between practice and reproductive performance. An online survey of Australian producers was conducted in 2020. The number of responses (n = 43) allowed benchmarking but was insufficient to determine correlations between practice and performance. The reported pregnancy rate of adult Merino ewes was variable between respondents (78%–95%; n = 11), and lambs marked per ewe joined ranged from 60% to 110% (n = 9). In non-Merino flocks, lambs marked ranged from 82% to 161% (n = 4). Most respondents (9/11) fed cereal grain with hay or straw, either daily or two or three times a week. However, some respondents fed grain only or roughage only, such that the percentage of roughage in diets ranged from 0% to 100%. Ewes were most frequently separated into age groups for feeding, and shy feeders were only removed by 25% of respondents. Although generally the reported reproductive rate was high, wide variation indicates potential for improvement. Best practice management for containment remains unclear and requires further research given the diverse practices used. Veterinary practitioners should be aware that some of the practices used may contribute to reduced productivity or health issues in ewes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Veterinary Journal
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 01 Sep 2021

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