I write this on the other side of the easterly weather systems of late September which brought 150mm here but some parts of Hawkes Bay had up to 500mm over that week which has caused infrastructure damage and sadly quite bad lambing losses.
Of course we had all become increasingly anxious about the impeding and much forecasted El Nino and the reasonable likelihood of a drought given how little rain we have had in recent months but as the old saying goes; ‘it never rains but it pours’.
However we now go into the spring with water tables and soil moisture properly recharged so if the El Nino does set in at least we will have a decent spring.
The dry winter made it much easier farming on my heavy soils than usual. Break feeding six mobs of bulls on various crops was quite pleasant for a change. Very little pugging, good utilisation and the power stayed up in the wires resulting in few breakouts. And they have had good growth rates in a year where beef returns are the highlight.

Lamb Wastage

Over the years I’ve built a useful data base of Marlow’s stud ewe and lamb wastage rates. A death prevented is just as useful as an extra lamb on the ground so one needs to know where those losses arise and then work on preventing them in the future.

August here as mentioned above was as good as I’ve ever had but with a very high scanning % it is still surprising how many lambs perish.
The 290 stud ewes (I also have 1150 commercial ewes) scanned 652 lambs or 225%. A third of them had triplets and just two dries.
By docking there were 521 live lambs or a pretty credible 179% ewes to the ram.
And yet 131 lambs were not present or 20% gone from scanning.
94 (14.4%) were born dead or inside dead ewes.
37 (5.7%) were alive at birth and died before docking, mostly in the first 3 days.
Both lots of dead lambs were comprised of a majority of triplet lambs.
When I read other stud breeders quoting their single digit lamb mortality I’m led to believe they either have very low scanning %’s, they don’t record their sheep very well, are bullshitters or probably a mixture of all three.
It is a problem within SIL that not all breeders record their born dead lambs as we are charged for these and some prefer not to pay. This will then inflate those breeder’s survival figures.
I always have recorded all dead lambs into SIL and now am heavily influenced when selecting stud rams more by the survival sub trait than reproduction. After all, if these sheep can scan at 225% single mated in a dry autumn and often with a FE challenge, there is little point getting more lambs in there until we address lamb mortality at lambing.
Going back to that 20% lamb death rate this season. If I count the triplet ewes as twins then the Marlow lamb death rate is a pretty decent 5.6%. Perhaps that is how competing ram breeders work out their mortality?

I now have commercial clients scanning 200% or better when they identify triplets so as well as continuing to breed for survival through the index and gene testing, I am currently involved in a project into looking how to better influence triplet survival and growth.

Ewe Wastage

One advantage of a recorded stud is the detail gathered. For your interest, this year’s ewe wastage rate was; 2 dry (.7%), 6 dead (2%), 1 missing (.3%) and 16 lost lambers (5.5%) or 8.6% total.
Of the 2% who were dead, 5 were triplet ewes and 1 twin. Three of them had stuck lambs, 1 bearing, 1 milk fever from being badly cast and one killed itself with foolishness.
This year I recorded all the blooming sheep I rolled over from being cast and won’t use any stud rams from these ewes although it’s probably unlikely there is a genetic cause but the jury is out on this.
There were quite a few repeat offenders with one miscreant at least 5 times who should be grateful of my diligence. It will be interesting to see of those who make it into next year’s stud flock if they repeat the performance or was it something seasonal like sub clinical milk fever for example.
If I could reduce the casting influence, it would be beneficial for those of you on country where shepherding is not an option. Particularly if you are able to feed them properly which contributes to casting rate.
Clients who have changed from other breeds in recent years are reporting a much reduced bearing rate which will be a relief and improvement to their ewe death rates.

Even if you are not in a FE hotspot, sub clinical FE in some years will cost you production and money.
Marlow has been using facial eczema tolerant rams for 15 years and making use of the Ramguard test where I challenge the potential stud sires with the toxin sporidesmin for the last eleven years.
The last six years the potential stud sires have been tested at the highest rate of .6 with those passing qualifying to be used as sires.
There are now suddenly a lot of studs claiming FE tolerance on the basis of having used an FE tolerant sire from another stud. FE tolerance is a long term breeding objective so don’t be swayed by new converts claiming immediate gains. At this point there are only twenty studs that are part of FE Gold as the certification ensures stringent standards are maintained. Marlow is one of them.

This year’s 2th rams

They are the best grown out I’ve had. This was helped by getting 70% of my commercial works lambs away off mum last November thus freeing up some quality feed for these fellows who are often on the back burner.

I’ll attach the most recent sire summary which lists all the stud sires I’ve used in recent years including the sale rams and this year’s 2015 born lambs.
If you have kept your records from previous years it allows you to see how the sires of the rams you purchased are tracking.
There is some information in here that should give you some comfort.
For a start if you look to the left you will see that the sires of the stud rams come from a good range of studs. Marlow is one of the best linked studs of any breed in the country. This is by design and means there is a high confidence level in the across flock DPP indexes I put in front of you.
This is further reinforced if you look to the number of progeny on the far right. About a third of the sires used in Marlow have progeny in other studs. That is the second figure where there are two and the same rams having progeny in different studs is the sire referencing I’m involved with and allows SIL to deal with different environments and management (phenotype) and concentrate on actual genetics (genotype).
Secondly you can see that the older stud rams from only a few years ago are pushed well down the order. This gives a good feel for the genetic gain within the stud.
On the Marlow web site are genetic gain graphs for each sub index.

And finally the level of the DPP indexes of recent rams is as good as you can get anywhere.
I’ve seen DPP figures from Romney studs for their stud rams recently and they are around the middle of my second page.
All 2th sale rams will have DPP’s equivalent to the figures of the rams at the top of the second page right through to the top of the first page.

I will ring you shortly to see if you are intending to get rams this year and if so an estimate please.
As usual I will be selling from early to mid-December.
Thank you for your past patronage and support.

Steve Wyn-Harris