Just weeks into its first winter, a new forage herb product is already showing its potential for improving lambing percentages and productivity, as well as ewe and lamb health.
Ecotain® environmental plantain was planted on half of the pasture country at ‘Ambleside Pastoral’ at Foxhow in Victoria’s Western District late last spring.
Farmers Rebecca and Dan Gardiner chose Ecotain® in a bid to better match feed supply with demand at lambing.
“In our lamb business, we are trying to achieve a higher stocking rate with a higher lambing percentage and to get more kilograms per hectare, and so far, Ecotain’s been brilliant,” said Rebecca.
Ecotain® environmental plantain is a broad-leaved perennial pasture herb which offers excellent nutrition for stock and strong autumn, winter and spring growth.
Rebecca and Dan planted 38 hectares of Ecotain® at a seeding rate of 10 kg/ha with 100 kg/ha of MAP and the crop established well through a relatively mild summer.
This year, they scanned 567 ewes in late February and moved them from crop stubbles onto either one of the two new Ecotain® paddocks at a stocking rate of 11.5 DSE/ha or 6.5 DSE/ha, or the phalaris and clover paddocks at stocking rate of 6.5 DSE/ha.
Rebecca said lambing started in April and by lamb marking at the end of May, they had 871 lambs and the Ecotain® was already showing its worth.
“Our lamb marking rate was 153% overall, but the really outstanding point when we looked at the data was that our marked percentages increased by 10% on the two Ecotain® paddocks compared with the rates in those paddocks last year,” she said.
On the two Ecotain® paddocks they achieved 185% and 179%.
She also noticed improvements in ewe health and mothering ability where they were grazing the new feed.
“We didn’t see any mismothering on the Ecotain®, the ewes were all clean and they had big bags of milk, so you could see they were doing well,” she said.
She estimated that the condition score of the ewes grazing Ecotain® was about 4 through winter and the lambs also seemed more vibrant and energetic.
“Another thing is I haven’t had to pull a single lamb this year, even from the maidens and we had about 120 maiden ewes,” she said.
The Ecotain® will also be given the job of fattening the lambs after weaning.
“All of the lambs will go on to the Ecotain®. It will be more beneficial for them, nutrition-wise, and they will probably get some hay or silage too,” she said.
They aim to finish lambs as early as September and definitely before harvesting starts on their 600 hectare farm.
Rebecca and Dan plan to weigh their lambs twice this season to gather more data on the potential productivity gains they could make from the Ecotain® feed in terms of kilograms of lamb produced per hectare.
Hamish Best, Product Development Manager with DLF Seeds, is also keeping a close eye on the comparison.
He and his colleague Geoff Ross helped weigh the lambs at marking time and will return to assess their progress later this winter.
Hamish said there were significant gains to be made in both productivity and animal health by switching to Ecotain® for lambing.
“At marking on Rebecca and Dan’s farm, the ewes grazing Ecotain® were in better condition and they visibly looked like they were lactating more, with bigger udders,” he said.
“The potential animal health benefits from Ecotain® are massive, especially for twin-bearing ewes because it allows them to lactate off the feed, not off their backs.”
He explained that lambing was a significant feed challenge for many graziers, particularly with highly productive multi-bearing ewes, because they are not able to process grass quickly enough to fulfil their high energy demands.
“They need a feed source that allows them to physically eat more, like plantain, which has half the rumen degradation time of ryegrass. It makes all the difference.”
Hamish encouraged graziers to contact their local DLF Seeds Sales Agronomist to discuss their farming system and ways to make the most of Ecotain® environmental plantain in their business.