NEWSLETTER No. 26: September 2002

It has been a while that everything has been going so well for so long on my place and it actually makes me feel a bit restless. There is always the suspicion that eventually one has to pay for ones good fortune and something will go drastically wrong at some stage. This is after all the third year that prices for sheep are pretty good, that climatic conditions seem to favor sheep farming while other parts of the agriculture industry are not faring all that well, or prospects have dimmed. The Economic Service forecasts that the good prices for sheep meats will last into next year, lets enjoy it. Whitehall was having fantastic weather over the lambing period, which made for very low losses of ewes and lambs on my place and a lambing percentage of 182. MNCC will be hitting 200% in a few years time without any effort from me.

On the downside, in the "Speech From the Throne" like the "Knowledge Wave" conference last year, the government made no mention of Agriculture or anything to indicate that Agriculture is still the mainstay of the nations income.

NZ Ovine Reference Scheme

Since most CPW breeders are now linked, the NZ Coopworth Society published the SIL list with the top performing 185 ewes. Thirteen listed were MNCC ewes, that is 7% of the top Coopworth ewes in the country. Not a bad effort even if I say so myself. Most of the other good ewes seem to belong to South Island breeders.

FE Challenge

FE spore counts were very low in Whitehall during the late summer and autumn. After last years test results of an 83% pass rate at 0.5 mg of sporodesmin I was looking forward to a 100% pass rate this year. Unfortunately a mistake with the rate of dilution was made and the first seven rams got double the dose rate at 1.04 mg per kg bodyweight. Sporodesmin is very poisonous and the worst was feared. I felt the need to do something to save my rams from certain death, so I gave the seven rams a vitamin B injection and put a lamb zinc bolus in them. Neither would have influenced the result. (Vitamin B helps the liver to recover and zinc prevents FE if it is in the bloodstream before the ingestion of sporodesmin).

However, these rams not only survived the dosing, but they showed very good tolerance, and only one ram suffered moderately raised GGT levels. The remaining 10 rams got dosed at 0.52 mg, whilst two missed out because we ran out of sporodesmin.

When a flock reaches a high tolerance level, maybe we can start to speak of resistance rather then tolerance to FE.

As always, the test results are available here on the website. The comments of Ramguard are typical for a research institute.

Sheep Improvement Ltd

Massey Ag researcher Dorian Garrick did not help our new recording scheme (S.I.L) when he told a conference that some recording breeders were not making any progress, because they were breeding according to the wishes of their clients. Now most of you would have heard of some of those breeders, some are quite popular and very successful.

MNCC has always strictly adhered to the Coopworth principals, which means you take the most profitable animal regardless of how it looks, as long it is sound. It has meant that in the past Stock and Station agents refused to sell my rams to their clients as some rams did not conform in looks to their standard.

Trend Graphs

On this website you will find the 10-year trend graphs that SIL produces on request. The general trend in the traits for weaning weight, lambing percentage, hogget growth rate and fleece weight is up. Average progress is 1.4% per annum on the DOP index. Maximum possible 2% (if all animals born were perfect).

Worm Tolerance

The Veterinary Journal of NZ gave a very informative up-to-date series of articles on nematodes and worm tolerance in their December 2001 issue. If you are interested, your vet or the library may have copy. A condensed version is available here on my website. What struck me in the article were some of the observations. For example, that ewes lose their immunity against worms for only a few weeks after lambing before rapidly recovering and that weaned lambs under 30 kg were not likely to have enough immunity to withstand a worm challenge and needed high protein food as a priority after weaning.

The good news is that a biological control of worms is a distinct possibility. A fungus, which attacks nematodes, has been isolated and AgResearch has patented a delivery system. It wont give the total kill that we are used to with the worm drenches, but it will possibly delay a total tolerance for these.

Hogget Mating

The ewe hoggets that passed the 38 kg weight mark were put out with the ram. As a group, the 2ths this year did not perform as well as other years and one wonders if their excellent performance as hoggets had anything to do with it. Managing hoggets that have been mated is still being debated and a new booklet about mating hoggets is being written and financed by the Sheep Council. Because I see apparent top ewe hoggets disappear from my computer sheets every year, there are still parts of the hogget management that need fine-tuning. Rather than mix them with the main flock after weaning, the ewe hoggets need to be kept separate with better feeding and the odd drench. Most years are fine, but occasionally there seems to be something missing, which gives me that uncomfortable feeling every year when it is that time the ram is put out with them.

Well, that is it from me. May you have a prosperous farming year and I hope to see you in November.

Edward Dinger.

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