As the energy content of the diet goes up so too does the profitability of the operation.
Farm consultant Wayne Allen says higher quality feed creates opportunities for growing and finishing stock – and this is becoming increasingly important on hill country farms.
Farmax models show that an increase in pasture quality of just 0.5ME would result in a 1.5kg increase in weaning weight, a 17% increase in lambing percentage and allow 50 more hoggets to be mated. On a 215ha hill country farm, this amounts to a financial benefit of $19,000.
A 10% - or 5000kg DM/ha – increase in N-driven drymatter production would allow 150 hoggets to be mated and progeny finished or 45 dairy cross trading cattle to be finished.
The combination of extra drymatter grown and improved pasture quality adds $43,000 to the bottom line.
This modelling is based on a 5000kg DM/ha increase in drymatter production, whereas the Craws are aiming to grow 3T/ha more drymatter through their spray and management programme.
High performance ewes
Hamish and Annabel Craw are running a high-performance hill country sheep and beef system, with their ewes consistently lambing around 150%.
At a recent Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farm field day, Hamish Craw says they have identified the key drivers of profitability in their business as being their lambing percentage and weaning draft.
The lambing percentage is about getting the numbers on the ground and the weaning draft is about realising the genetic potential of their sheep and getting as many lambs away as early as possible on the higher early schedule.
This has a fly-wheel effect with more lambs off the property early in summer; feed can then be partitioned into capital stock so they are at optimum body condition going into mating which drives fertility.
Annabel says ME is the most critical factor in both lambing percentages and weaning weights, so like feeding high performance athletes, the focus is on providing high ME pasture species to maximise productivity.
For the Craws, who farm in a summer dry environment, this focus on feeding needs to happen in spring and early summer to make full use of available soil moisture.
Wayne says for lambs to grow at 300gms/day they need to be offered pastures of 1500kg DM/ha with an ME of 12.
As a rule of thumb, lambs growing at 300gm/day are returning 35c/kg DM, compared to 29c/kg DM when they are growing at 200gms/day or 22c/kg DM when they are growing at 100gms/day.
High ME forages such as clovers means higher weaning weights, more lambs sold at the weaning draft and more feed available for other land-use options.