View this email in your browser
Newsletter | March 2020

Going virtual | The Great Stocking Rate Debate | PDS applications open this week

Manypeaks growers pilot virtual discussion to tour the Lester Pastoral Company autumn  grazing crops

There's lots to learn about summer crops, says Kim Lester. He reckons the roots on this mature Raphno plant are a research trial just on their own!  
If your newsletter feed is anything like ours, then we’re pretty sure there is absolutely nothing new we can tell you about COVID and that you’re not interested in hearing anything on this subject other than the expected confirmation that we had to cancel our WALRC forums last week. We, like everyone, are going ‘virtual’ in the coming weeks and you can expect to have links to some great mini interviews as we continue to celebrate excellence in research innovation and adoption on farm. 

We are piloting our first virtual discussion group with the producers of Manypeaks this Friday, with lots to learn from Manypeaks farmer Kim Lester who is trialing some new summer crops that are coming into full grazing production now.  We will be asking Kim to share his learnings so far - and most importantly, what he needs to find out - to help us put some meat on the detail on the oft-used words ‘we need to fill the autumn feed gap’. Kim will be joined by local vet Jess Schilling for the virtual discussion, who is shining a spotlight on the big production limiting issues she is seeing on the south coast at the moment.  Stay tuned as we plan to share the best bits of the discussion to the full WALRC audience! 

The great stocking rate debate

As WALRC gears up for establishing the next round of priority focus areas to feed up to MLA, WALRC producer member Lynley Anderson, Kojonup, wants to challenge the paradigm that stocking rate is the main driver of profitability.

“For many years we have known that optimising stocking rate in normal seasons equals optimum profit, but current market prices are changing that,” says Lynley who mated 5000 Merino ewes alongside an 800ha cropping program this year. 

“We are finding that lowering our stocking rate to turn off heavier stock is more profitable, as well as leading to better lamb survival.”

Moora farmer and WALRC producer member Michael Humphry who operates a commercial Merino flock, adds his perspective.

“I sit out there near the top of the response curve and I know I’m highly susceptible to seasonal risk, but I can also exploit the opportunities that seasons bring.”

Michael has in effect also recently lowered his stocking rate by adding lease land to his sheep enterprise as a deliberate strategy to be able to increase condition score.

“Moving from maximum stocking rate to optimum on paper looks highly profitable,” he says. “But you have to do the maths and know the interaction on your farm. In 2019, with the worst cropping year in a decade we were $400/ha in front with our sheep, compared to 2018 on the back of the best cropping year ever coupled with high grain prices, when we were $60/ha in front with cropping.”

DPIRD recently commissioned farm systems analysis specialist John Young to look at the new value of the ewe and his findings are worth exploring, especially given the temptation by some (*not Lynley or Michael) to underfeed ewes during summer/autumn during a period of high feed costs.

John reminds us in his executive summary that economic analysis carried out for the Lifetime Ewe Management package demonstrated that it was most profitable for farmers to join in CS 3 and lamb in CS 3 and not feed grain to gain condition. However, this recommendation was robust for the range of prices examined in 2011 and for a range of regions and a range of time of lambing. Prices have since increased to levels outside the range examined in the package, so the targets for CS during pregnancy may have changed.

But John’s latest analysis substantiates that even under current market conditions, it is a profitable investment to feed all ewes  according to the Lifetime Ewe Management Guidelines so to maintain condition during pregnancy and to feed low condition score single bearing ewes and, most importantly, low and medium condition score twin bearing ewes to gain condition.

So WALRC wants to know, what is your view? Is there a gap in our understanding of the stocking rate debate? Does the economic analysis that John offers resonate with your decision making?

Lynley and Michael both say it’s a good time to reassess your optimum stocking rate.

And, WALRC chair Tim Watts adds to the discussion. He notes that  the modern sheep producer is now talking about a potentially “new” genotype and production system that is more oriented to growth and finishing. 

"In this context perhaps the optimal stocking rate (as measured conventionally) is lower to promote pastures and FOO for rapid growth," Tim says. 

"With the advent of this new 'genotype', do we need a better measure of stocking rate than ewes = 1.5, hoggets = 1, rams=2 etc?"

The subject appears  well worthy of some further discussion so don't hesitate to drop us a line on; or tweet @walrc1 with your thoughts. 

Meanwhile, John Young’s full report can be viewed here

We’ve heard lots about lamb survival - but what’s the story with beef calf mortality?

MLA is supporting a University of Melbourne project to quantify neonatal mortality and reproductive performance in southern beef herds.  This is a unique opportunity to get an understanding of the real picture. It is an anonymous survey and your answers will critically inform the data and future research requirements in this space.

Beef producers reading this newsletter are warmly encouraged to go on line and complete the Beef calf mortality survey.  For more information on this project, please contact Tim Huggins at MLA on

We are field-days-free so there’s plenty of time to write great applications!

Well, now is an excellent time to get on with preparing a Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) application. The application process opens this week, for on-farm projects that will commence in 2021 - in a life we assume that is PCV (Post Corona Virus) - meaning that people can get on with doing stuff!

Unlike other autumns when we are awash with pre-seeding forums/meetings and get-togethers, our time is freed up to some extent and we can, if we wish, fill this space with creative thought and phone/zoom discussion efforts to work out how a PDS can benefit producers in your region.

WALRC is currently responding to several requests to facilitate Zoom meetings with producer groups seeking support to develop applications. 

WALRC chair and guru of PDS applications, Tim Watts, promises he is available as part of his newly freed-up field-day time, to assist and contribute where-ever possible.  The deadline for submission is May 12, so these few weeks before seeding commences are a critical time to get the application work done.

Go to and download the guidelines - and most of all, talk to WALRC about how you can optimise your chances of getting your project idea up.

R&D project round in final stages

The current round of levy based RD&A applications is now well advanced. 

Full applications from our WALRC co-investors are now being considered and assessed by the expert scientific panel following a very high percentage being highly ranked by the producer panel last November. 

According to WALRC chair Tim Watts, this high rating is a reflection of the quality of the proposals. 

"The feature of this year's proposals has been the high level cross-institutional scientific collaboration.  When expertise in wide ranging disciplines pool their intellect to produce an integrated plan to investigate limitations in our production systems we have a project which should deliver at a much higher level," Tim says. 

"Such scientific collaboration is the efficiency factor in research that our industries have been looking for.  It has potentially huge benefits beyond administrative collaborations where institutional technical resources are pooled to carry out the scientific program of just one entity."
WALRC looks forward to the outcome of these applications for levy based funding, all of which tackle major constraints to our production systems – Lamb survival round lambing in southern Australia, the Autumn feed gap and weaner sheep management.
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
WA Livestock Research Council · WALRC Secretariat · PO Box 668 · Denmark, WA 6333 · Australia

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp