Context: Feedlotting lambs has the potential to considerably increase the efficiency of lamb production in Australia. Many producers have turned to grain-finishing lambs to capitalise on high lamb prices and, due to the perceived profitability of this practice, further research to improve production has not been prioritised. Lambs are, however, difficult to adapt to a predominantly grain-based diet, often resulting in highly variable feed intake and growth rates.
Aims: The aim of this survey was to investigate the apparent growth rates and feed conversion ratios of lambs in current feedlotting enterprises. A secondary aim was to identify research priorities that could improve feedlot production efficiency.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted between February and May 2020 among Australian lamb producers, with the target population being lamb producers using feedlots to finish lambs. Producer responses from 59 current lamb feedlotters were collated and analysed.
Key results: The most frequently reported growth rates were between 300 and 350 g/day, and most respondents reported a feed conversion ratio of 5:1. The incidence of shy feeders was a median of 3.5% and mortality was a median of 1%, with acidosis reported as the major contributor to mortality.
Conclusions: The results of the current survey indicate that for the majority of responding producers, lamb growth rates and feed conversion ratios are consistent with those predicted by the nutrient requirements of domesticated ruminants (CSIRO 2007), and improvements in production are unlikely without significantly increasing nutrient intake. Shy feeders, acidosis and the intake of lowly digestible feeds are the clear limitations to production efficiency.
Implications: Research to improve productivity of lambs in feedlots needs to prioritise the implementation of feeding strategies that minimise social and nutritional issues, and promote maximum intake of nutrients.