WEIGHING UP OPTIONS TO FEEDLOT LAMBS
Market prices for lambs have continually been hitting records this year and hay and grain prices have more than doubled due to the severity of the drought. Producers are being challenged to weigh up the options of feedlotting lambs and how profitable that may be with input costs rising and feed sources becoming unpredictable in supply.
There are several options for feedlotting lambs that vary from intensive feedlot style set ups with feed bunks to paddocks where lambs have self-feeders and the availability to stubble or pasture. When introducing lambs into a feedlot, it’s important they have time to adjust to the feed especially if they haven’t been exposed to it before. MLA suggests that its important to “introduce grain-based diets slowly over a minimum of 14 days, longer for high starch grains (21–28 days). High quality roughage should also be provided during the introduction period.”
A major input to feed mixes is the quality of the hay or the dry matter component that makes up part of the feed ration. MLA advises that “dry matter intake is a key determinant of growth. Lambs consume, on average, 3.8–4.2% of their body weight daily on a ‘dry matter’ basis. Fibre is essential for optimal function of the digestive system in ruminants and assists in preventing health problems. Fibre stimulates rumen motility and saliva production, providing natural buffering (maintaining required pH levels) of the rumen environment. Effective fibre is provided from roughage such as hay, silage or straw and should make up a minimum of 10% of the total ration.”
The management of lambs during their time spent in a feedlot environment is important as it can help monitor the progress of weight gain and ensure your on track to meet your target weights at end of the feeding period. MLA suggests that “lambs generally need to be growing in excess of 300g/day to be profitable. The efficiency at which lambs convert feed to liveweight gain further influences profitability.” It’s also important to have an individual weight record for each lamb so you can monitor their individual progress, weights should be recorded at induction and at regular intervals throughout the feeding period. MLA suggests that “monitoring lamb performance enables more effective management and improvement. Problems and poor performing animals can be identified early and management adjusted accordingly. Bodyweights and fat scores are also critical in determining time of sale. Individual animal performance and management can have a big impact on profitability. Consideration should be given to the opportunity cost of not individually identifying and weighting lambs. When lambs are considered as groups rather than individuals, many poor performing lambs are concealed by the averages.”
With all of this information in mind, combined with the experience that has underpinned the design of the perfect sheep feeder, BROOKFIELD’s design is ideal for anyone that’s serious about feedlotting lambs. The design was made specifically with the producer in mind as the feeders can hold up to 3 cubic metres (1.05 tonnes) meaning less time is spent mixing feeds and filling up feeders. The BROOKFIELD Sheep Feeder is on average of two-three times the size of a normal sheep feeder available on the market. It has been proven and has had consistent success with up to 100% hay; the adjustable opening and swinging tray allows a consistent flow of feed and there is weather protection over both sides of the tray. The BROOKFIELD SheepFeeder’s are a strong, robust and a fully galvanised feeder that is able to be carried when full with ease.
Another tool that can be of use to producers that are interested in feedlotting lambs is the LAMB FEEDLOT CALCULATOR. It’s an online tool that can assist producers in calculating production time, feed options and the likely profit or loss that can be expected with various feeding options. This calculator in excel form is a fantastic tool to use as part of a farm management strategy that can assist in weighing up feedlot options ahead of time.
Sources: NSW Department of Primary Industries, Feedlot calculator, https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/nutrition/feeding-practices/feedlot-calculator and Meat & Livestock Australia, A producers guide to production feeding for lamb growth, http://www.makingmorefromsheep.com.au/_literature_161368/Mod_3_Production_feeding_lambs