Lamb Alive

Posted by on Dec 10, 2010 in Featured Slider | Comments Off on Lamb Alive

Lamb Alive

The objectives of this project were to understand the risks associated with a changing climate to sheep farming in the lower South Island and, in particular, focussing on lambing and lamb survival. The project was stimulated after some severe weather events that occurred in the midst of lambing and severely impacted on farm productivity. The effect of lower lambing percentage in any year flows through to the industries that support farmers (meat processors’, agribusiness etc) therefore the potential existed to try and better understand future likely impacts.

young lamb in ryegrass pasture

Lamb Alive – a long term approach to the changing climate risk

Lamb survival to sale is the major driver of profit in our sheep farm systems. Global warming, land use change and increased lambing percentages threaten lamb survival. In any three day period of lambing the number of lambs born has been estimated to have doubled compared to 20 years ago. How will the climate of the future influence our lamb survival? Which managements can we apply to minimise any potential decline?

Modelling lamb survival throughout the lower South Island

We chose 7 sites around the lower South Island and talked to farmers in each region to get ideas on how we might change lamb survival.

They chose options such as changing lambing date, shelter, better feeding and altering the genetics of lamb survival. Results are in the report links.

Factors affecting lamb survival

Climate around lambing is a major variable that we need to understand. We developed daily climate records for the different site, both now and in the future and then tested these to see how lamb survival might change

Examining the climate in the lower South Island and its variations

Using the types of managements that the farmers suggested, we looked at the relative impacts of each using a lamb survival model based on New Zealand data.

Testing the potential for lamb survival

Each region had different issues and these are reported here.

Northern Southland mitigations for a changing climate
West Otago mitigations for climate change
South Otago mitigations for climate change
South Canterbury mitigations for climate change

Key Farmer Messages
  • The modelled impacts of potential climate change provides little extra variation over that which farmers deal with every season now i.e. New Zealand farm systems are resilient.
  • Increasing scanning percentage should still be the highest priority
  • Shelter is most effective and more effective in hill country
  • Need to concentrate efforts on the ewe
  • Feeding and sheltering the ewe before lambing has a bigger effect than sheltering the lamb at lambing

Full Reports with all of the details

Lamb Alive – results for farming sheep and climate change
AgResearch Lamb Alive Final Report

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