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NSW DPI Primefact 302 Fat Scoring Sheep and Lambs has information about how to do fat scoring.
Pasture planning: our pastures in the Southern Tablelands follow a somewhat predictable growth pattern with most pasture growth in September and October. To minimise the costs of supplementary feeding, it is helpful to match stocking rates to pasture growth. In dry years there will be less grass.
Graz Clock is a spreadsheet created by Doug that can be used to help with understanding pasture cycles and planning stocking.
Attending a PROGRAZE course will teach you about how to manage pastures and grazing.
Supplementary feeding: if there is not enough grass and you want to keep your sheep then you will need to feed them extra. The amount to feed depends on the type of sheep (dry, pregnant, lambs, weaners) and the amount of grass in the pasture.
Feed such as wheat, barley, oats, corn or sheep nuts needs to be introduced slowly (say 50g/head/day for three days, then 100g/head/day and so on) so that you don’t poison your sheep. If they have never had the feed before then you need to be especially careful that a few brave sheep don’t eat the lot and die. Lupins are a safe option.
NSW DPI Primefact 331 Supplementary feeding of sheep in southern NSW has more information.
[See also the NSW DPI Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app which allows you to calculate feeding options for your sheep and pastures.]
Lambing time: generally it works best to time lambing so that lambs are being weaned when there is lots of grass. In the NSW Southern Tablelands, lambing in August means that the young lambs can take advantage of the peak grass growing time (September/October) and minimises the amount of supplementary feeding needed.
Joining: sheep have a 150 day gestation period so you need to put the rams in with the ewes in early March to get lambs in August. This is known as joining and can go on for about 5 weeks. You need to feed your rams well before this (lupins are good). Ewes will have more twins and triplets if they are fat score 3 or higher at joining.
Lamb marking is generally done when the lambs are two to six weeks old. This can involve ear marking, ear tagging, castration, tail docking and vaccination.
Shearing: in the merino wool industry, shearing has traditionally been done at the end of June but this means that the sheep use extra energy to keep warm instead of growing bigger lambs. If you shear sheep in winter you will need to give them supplementary feed.
Shearing in late November/early December can help reduce flystrike and problems with seeds burrowing into the skin.
It is best not to shear in the month before lambing when pregnant ewes need to spend lots of time eating.
Many meat sheep such as Dorpers don’t shed fully and may need shearing.
Mostly you need to shear when the shearer is available.
Fly strike: sheep with wet fleece or dags can get flystrike in the warm months. This is where flies lay eggs on damaged skin and maggots hatch and feed on the skin. Usually this happens around the tail (breech strike) or along the back (body strike). Generally sheep with wool have more problems with flystrike. See the FlyBoss website for more information about treatment and prevention measures.
Crutching is shearing the wool from around the tail and inside back legs to keep dags off the breech area. This helps to reduce breech strike. It is often done before and during the fly season and prior to lambing.
Parasitic worms: there are three main types of intestinal worms affecting sheep in the Capital region: Barber’s Pole Worm, Brown Stomach Worm and Black Scour Worm. If left uncontrolled, these can kill your sheep. Best practice worm management combines pasture management, faecal worm egg counts (WEC) and effective drenching. You need to do regular WECs if you want to have any idea about what is happening with worms in your sheep.
Kate Sawford, District Veterinarian for the Braidwood Region has written a useful guide to Controlling Worms in Sheep in the Braidwood Region.
The WormBoss website has extensive information about managing worms in sheep and helps you decide when drenching is needed. The Capital region is in the WormBoss NSW non seasonal rainfall area.
Worm egg count test kits are available from South East Local Land Services offices and rural suppliers. The test kit is free and has information about the costs for the tests.
Moving sheep around yards
Sheep need to be moved into and around yards for routine tasks such as fat scoring, shearing, hoof trimming, drenching and vaccinations. A sheep dog can help with this but many people on small farm holdings use a bucket with some feed rattling in it instead.
A bugle shaped layout for yards works well for funnelling sheep into a race or small space.
It is easiest to move sheep if you are beside them. The balance point is at their shoulder. If you move forward from this towards the head then the sheep will go backwards, if you move behind the balance point towards the back leg then the sheep moves forwards. Mostly it doesn’t work to stand behind the sheep. This all takes practise.
Drench is an oral treatment for worms. The WormBoss website provides extensive information about selection and use of drenches.
You need to know the weight of your sheep before drenching (so you need scales).
Drenching guns are often rather inaccurate in the doses they deliver. Use a beaker to collect a number of doses (say 8-10) to check for accurate volume.
Quarantine drench any new sheep arriving on your property and keep them in a quarantine paddock for at least three days. See NSW DPI Primefact 477 Quarantine Drenching – Don’t Import Resistant Sheep Worms.
Drenching at weaning is encouraged by Doug (even when WECs are low).
This video about drenching technique may be helpful.
Sheep are generally vaccinated with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine. The vaccine is injected subcutaneously (under the skin), usually behind the ear on the neck.
This video about injecting technique may be helpful.
NSW DPI ‘Sheep Agskills: A Practical Guide to Farm Skills’, available CSIRO Publishing.
J Court, JW Ware and S Hides ‘Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool’, available CSIRO Publishing.
The Cattle Husbandry for Small Farms field day was held at DMB Galloways in Sutton on the 29 April 2017.
The day was led by Greg Meaker a former educator in beef cattle husbandry and management at Tocal Collage and District Livestock Officer with NSW Government Industry and Investment, Goulburn. Greg is also owner manager of two working properties in the Gunning district.
Key points and resources
Thank you to our hosts Dianne and Mark from DMB Galloways.
This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind and volunteer support from South East Local Land Services, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability and the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator. We thank them all for their ongoing contribution to this project.
Stuart Myers from Equiculture presented a horse property planning seminar in March 2017.
Information about horses, fire and flood planning at the Equiculture website. This resource has links to other websites to help you plan for emergencies.
Healthy soil = Healthy Pasture find out more about managing soils by watching the short videos @ the soils network of knowledge
The Soil Food Web
Equine Permaculture and Property Planning
Paterson’s Curse – DPI Prime Fact Sheet on the weed and poisoning of horses.
NSW WeedWise Online - this website has detailed information on weeds and livestock. Of particular interest for horse owners are fireweed and Crofton weed
Thanks to our seminar hosts.
The event was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services and FuturePLANS.
At the Working with Weeds field day, Alison Elvin from Natural Capital Pty Ltd presented a compelling and informative story about weeds. Warren Schofield from ACT Biosecurity and Rural Services and Alice McGrath from South East Local Land Services also presented information on weed management and planning on the day.
According to the Australian Government it is estimated that weeds cost Australian farmers approximately $1.5 billion a year in weed control activities and $2.5 billion in lost agricultural production. So why are weeds such a problem and can we change our thinking to manage them better?
Key points from the field day:
Useful websites and links:
Weeds in Australia
South East Local Land Services Integrated Weed Management Plan
– A Land Managers Guide
– Planning Tool
Biological Control of Weeds
We also thank the following for their contribution:
The Healthy Land, Healthy Horse field day for horse owners was hosted by Geoff and Mark from Manna Park Agistment Centre in Bywong> This provided a beautiful setting for Stuart Myers from Equiculture to share the Equiculture system of horse management. A range of topics were discussed from horse biology to the importance of maintaining a diversity of plant species on farm for grazing.
Key messages were:
Information about moving horses in NSW
PIC information for horse owners
University of Maryland Rotational Grazing Institute
Equiculture resources and books
This field day is made possible with funding from the Australian Government. We also thank the following for their contribution:
The key take home messages from the workshop were:
Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline: 1800 675 888
Contact your Local Land Services District Vet
Resources and Information
Here is a collection of websites and information which may be relevant to your small farm.
NSW Food Authority website
Small Egg Farms
NSW Department of Primary Industries Primefacts and website
DPI Keeping Poultry on a Small Scale
Backyard Poultry Forum
Common Diseases of Backyard Chooks
Former NSW Department of Agriculture Sheep and Wool Officer, Col Langford, led an informative and interactive discussion aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of livestock managers. An outdoor practical session followed where participants learned about estimating the age of a sheep, how to catch sheep and fat scoring along with pasture and weed assessment.
South East Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Dr Kate Sawford detailed the legislative requirements for Property Identification Codes (PICS) and the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). Did you know that all properties with stock (even just one animal) need a PIC? If you move sheep from one property to another then you need to record this in the online NLIS.
There was also a discussion about drenching, sheep diseases and routine management of sheep. The WormBoss website is a good resource for finding out managing intestinal worms in sheep to avoid unnecessary drenching.
Take home messages from the field day for participants Jennie and Susan were:
This field day was made possible by funding from the National Landcare Programme, from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services.
Dr Dean Revell from Revell Science in Western Australia was the keynote speaker at the Fodder Trees and Shrubs for Grazing Systems field day in Bywong. Over 35 farmers attended to learn about how native fodder trees and shrubs can be incorporated into livestock systems.
Dr Revell led a discussion about how fodder grazing systems using native shrubs combined with pasture can provide stock on small and large farms with feed during autumn and winter feed gaps (or any other time when the weather is being unkind). We learned that shrubs use ground water not accessible to grasses, bring nutrients to the surface for other plants to use and provide shade and shelter for grazing stock. Dr Revell also outlined the amazing ways in which stock learn to use fodder shrubs and how we can use animal behaviour to teach stock to eat new plants.
Grazing systems using shrubs also benefit animals by reducing stress caused by extremes in temperature, allowing the metabolic system of the animal to work efficiently which keeps growth rates steady. Some shrub species also provide medicinal value to the livestock thereby reducing worm burdens and potentially methane gas production. Farm productivity improves by reducing the cost of inputs including supplementary feed and drenches. It also allows farmers flexibility in rotating paddocks and feed resources. The downside to fodder crops is the initial start-up cost, but economic modelling over the long term showed improved grazing productivity.
Geoff Butler from Wamboin Gearys Gap Landcare was on hand to share his extensive knowledge on local plant species that could be suitable for fodder. He discussed the establishment of shelter belts and the importance of site preparation including ripping, time of planting and tube stock establishment. Establishing effective windbreaks can have many positive effects in farming systems in addition to slowing wind speeds at ground level including providing habitat for beneficial birds and insects, providing additional feed resources during drought (using fodder trees suitable for coppicing) and providing shade and shelter for stock.
South East Local Landcare Services Officer Matthew Lieschke gave a seasonal update and demonstrated how to calculate supplementary feeding rates for livestock if you do not have any fodder shrubs to fill the gap.
A key message from the field day is that incorporating native fodder shrubs into a grazing system can reduce the need to hand feed and that while stock are using the fodder shrub area, other pastures are able to recover better.
The Enrich Project that Dr Revell worked on has now finished but the reports from the project are available online:
Perennial Fodder Shrubs – Key Findings from Enrich
Perennial Forage Shrubs – From Principles to Practice on Australian Farms
More information about the work of Dr Revell including a free worksheet for shrub forage calculations: www.revellscience.com.au
Follow up book published by Mallee CMA: Native Forage Shrubs for Low-Rainfall Areas
Local Land Services Seasonal Updates and Newsletters from southeast.lls.nsw.gov.au
A list of native plants suitable for growing on small farms in the Capital Region is provided in the back section of the locally written book Look After Your Natural Assets.
The field day was made possible with funding and support from South East Local Land Services.
A group of new and prospective small farm owners gathered in November 2015 for the first field day for the Small Farms Network Capital Region. The Small Farm Walk ‘n Talk was a friendly and information rich day held in Rossi on a small farm that has a mix of grazing land and native bush.
In keeping with the challenges for this and many other small farms in our area, Matthew Lieschke (Local Land Services Livestock Officer) led a discussion about pasture management including identification of grasses and how to work out how many grazing animals are a realistic goal. Captains Flat Rural Fire Service talked about the fire risks and planning for fire (and yes there was a close inspection of their fire truck by interested parties at the end of the day). Alice McGrath (Local Land Services) talked about recognising the land capability class of your small farm, which gives you an idea of what farming activities it might be suited to. Donna Hazel (Local Land Services) led a discussion about remnant native vegetation including what types of trees, shrubs and grasslands are covered by the Native Vegetation Act.
A clear message from the day is that if you are thinking of buying a small farm with the goal of running a particular type of farm, you should look for a property that is already suited to that type of enterprise. Steep slopes are hard to flatten, native trees often cannot be cleared, soil types are hard to change and rainfall is really not negotiable. If you already own the farm then you might need to adjust your goals to suit what you have.
This field day, generously hosted by small farm owners Susan and Michael, was made possible through financial and organisational support from South East Local Land Services.
Small Farms Network Capital Region IncPO Box 313BungendoreNSW 2621