Joint venture lamb growth project

A research project to better quantify the effect of forage and environment type on lambs is under way in the South. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A research project to better quantify the effect of forage and environment type on lambs is under way in the South. Photo by Linda Robertson.

A research project, examining the effects of different environments and types of feed on lamb growth rates, carcass weight and yield of lambs, has been launched by Alliance Group and UK-retailer Marks and Spencer.

A delegation from Marks and Spencer was recently in New Zealand to discuss both the project and a sole-supply chilled lamb deal which has just been signed with the southern-based co-operative.

The Pacesetter research project, which follows an earlier study in 2011, would be undertaken at a Middlemarch property owned by Lone Star Farms.

Lone Star Farms has noticed large variations in lamb meat yield, from property to property, and throughout the season.

It was interested in the influence non-genetic factors, such as type of forage and sex of lamb, had on growth rates, carcass weight and meat yield throughout the season and how those could be altered to optimise production and profit on-farm.

The research is being conducted by Jo Kerslake, of Dunedin consultancy firm AbacusBio.

Early results from the 2011 trial showed yield decreased over time with lambs yielding highest off their mother in January (56.1%), decreasing by 2% in February and March, 9.6% in April and another 0.6% in May.

No large differences were observed between lambs of different breed or sex but some differences were observed for lambs grazing different forages, she said.

The decreasing trend in yield throughout the season was often questioned by farmers. While it was well known that genetics could influence overall yield, the influence of forage type, environment type and management on lamb meat yield was not so well known, she said.

The second trial would better quantify the effect of forage and environment type and would include irrigated lucerne, irrigated ryegrass, dryland ryegrass and dryland fescue.

One thousand lambs were electronically tagged at weaning, with weight, age and sex recorded.

Lambs were randomly split over the four different forage and environment types to be assessed.

The lambs would be re-weighed at fortnightly drafts and processed with individual lambs being tracked to Alliance Group's VIAscan information.

To understand the impact that forage and environment type, sex of lamb, and time of season had on growth rates and yield, it would be important to try to assess those factors independent of feed restriction or parasite challenges.

Lambs would be fed to their full potential, parasites controlled, weather and soil temperature recorded and pasture amount and qualities measured, she said.

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