News & Media

Scan for multiple births to increase profitability of lambing

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 4. April 2013 - 9:30

Producers with ewes expected to lamb in June and July are encouraged to book a pregnancy scan to identify any twins, to help improve the productivity of their sheep enterprises.

Department of Agriculture and Food senior development officer Mandy Curnow said recent work demonstrated that pregnancy scanning for singles, and particularly for twins, was vital to effectively manage a flock.

“Through scanning and knowing which ewes are carrying single or twin lambs, producers are better able to effectively manage feeding their ewes,” Ms Curnow said.

“They can then ensure twinning ewes have sufficient feed to give birth to viable twins and save money on feed for ewes pregnant with single lambs.

“Generally, the incidence of twinning ewes is underestimated. Most lamb flocks have more than 60 per cent twin lambs. Many flocks report a survival rate close to 50 per cent of twin lambs, with most losses due to low birth weight.”

Ms Curnow said providing appropriate nutrition to ewes with twin lambs was vital. Ewe nutrition in late pregnancy sets the lambs up for better birth weight and improves survival in the early days.

This message was validated by John Young, of Farming Systems Analysis Service, at recent at the department’s Making More from Sheep seminar and at a Lifetime Ewe Management economics event.

Mr Young demonstrated the value of improving twin lamb survival through better management of twinning ewes.

“The easiest way of increasing the number of lambs is by improving the management of twinning ewes in late pregnancy, rather than investing in more feed at joining,” Mr Young said.

“There is also evidence that the value of scanning for pregnancy status increases with the percentage of twinning ewes, as it provides an opportunity to best manage the nutrition of the ewes and improve twin lamb survival rates.

“The importance of twin lamb survival can be demonstrated in dollar terms using a meat price of $3 per kilogram. The value of every surviving lamb on a whole-farm profit basis in a cross-bred flock is $42 per head and for Merino flocks is $26 per head, and that value increases dramatically if the farm is understocked.”

Ms Curnow said currently, pregnancy scanning was only undertaken by about 30 per cent of producers and of that number, only a third scan for multiple births.

The best window for scanning ewes is between 90 and 110 days from rams in.

Media contact: Jodie Thomson, media liaison     +61 (0)8 9368 3937