Selected newsclippings about sheep and Finnsheep from around the world...

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In this issue I would like to summarise an article from the New Zealand Meat Producer, Last Quarter, 1996 entitled Managing High Performance. It concerns the success of Andy and Hamish Ramsden of Tararau who have dramatically lifted their lambing percentages from the loss-making NZ average of 115% in 1990 to a very profitable 169-194% using Finn-Friesian genetics.

The Ramsdens changed from pure Romneys to Finn-Romney crosses. In 1996 their hoggets averaged 87% at marking, their two year olds 169% and their three and four year olds 194%. Andy says, “The Finn’s given us the ability to improve the lambing percentage and put selection pressure on, delivering twins and triplets with ease. The East Friesian completes the picture by adding mothering ability and fast growth, and makes it possible to finish lambs to slaughter on mother’s milk.”

They have also produced 2136 half-Friesian lambs from their Finn-Romneys (by AI @ 178%) which averaged 24 kg at two months old, “Ultimately I want a ewe that is half-Finn for fertility and feed conversion, a quarter East Friesian to be a ‘milk machine’ and a quarter Romney for reliability,” Andy says.

The Ramsden’s success is a combination of innovative genetics and excellent feed management. (The feed level is adjusted by buying and selling cattle). They believe in feeding ewes above maintenance levels while they are in lamb and with lamb, getting the ewes back to within 3 kg of mating weight at docking, and back to mating weight at weaning.1 Feeding the ewes and lambs well overcomes the common criticism of the smallness of twins: We’re not getting smaller lambs and it’s all what goes down the throat,” says Andy.

Using Finn-Romneys has led to a drop in micron from 39 to 34 and to a 10% decline in wool weight which is more than made up for by the premium for finer wool.

Andy finds the attitude that Finn sheep aren’t for everyone hard to understand. “The best looking sheep is the one that’s the best performer - whatever that might look like, he concludes." Sheepnotes Winter 1997.

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As you may know NSW Agriculture has been conducting research into the qualitative differences between both paternal and maternal sires. The results of the latter are nearly complete and show a conclusive advantage of Texels over Dorsets.

Preliminary results are available for the first-cross progeny of the maternal sires. To know whether there is a conclusive difference among the various maternal breeds we shall have to wait until the first draft of twelve month old ewes lamb in about August of this year. We are confident that the Finns will be proven to be superior to all other breeds in precocity and fertility as this has been the result everywhere else in the world where similar research has been carried out, Finnsheep having been the most studied sheep in the world over the last fifteen years.

The preliminary results are very positive. The Finn sires produced a greater rate of pregnacy (by AI) than all other breeds, (90.4% compared to 86.1%). Our clients corroborate this: most farmers when crossing Finns and Merinos report a leap in lambing percentages from @ 85% to @ 115%. The number of lambs born at Cowra to the various breed showed the Finns averaged 13% better than the Border Leicesters and 12% better than all other breeds.

If you take into account the percentage survival of twins and the level of assisted births, the Finn performance was even better than this. Finns lambs needed assistance in less than 4% of ewes, compared with Border Leicesters at 11%, East Friesians at 19% and Suffolks at 15%. Twin survival amongst Finn lambs was also superior: 79% compared to 74% for Borders, 72% for East Friesians. Weight of lambs at weaning was not significantly different amongst the breeds: Finns were just on average at 24.4 kg, Border Leicesters at 25kg and East Friesians at 25.3kg. As the paternal sire study has shown though, these slightly bigger lambs don’t contain more meat; the extra weight is bone and fat, for which the producer is charged a penalty." SHEEPNOTES, SUMMER 1997


“Although multiple births do require more attention and care, the profits seem well worth the effort. A 1987 Uni of Wisconsin analysis stated that it would require 5,721 ewes producing one lamb each to generate a $25,000 profit, and only 353 ewes producing two lambs to equal it.”(Raising Sheep the Modern Way, p12)

Clearly the value of lambs, and associated costs must be very different in the USA, but the point about the value of twinning is well made. Agnote No 430/22, June 1981 shows that only 3% of lambs need to be saved to cover the costs of an intensive lamb raising enterprise - the rest is profit.

Agnote no 430/817 outlines gross margins for prime lamb production for 1981. For 1,300 ewes , and 26 lambs with 95% of lambs sold to ewes joined, prime lambs sold for $22, first-cross ewes purchased for $38, & cast for age ewes sold for $15 (how times change!), the calculated margins are:
Wool: @ 4.5 kg @ 215c $12,578
Livestock Trading $18,260
Total $30,949
Wool Harvesting $3,626
Sheep Husbandry $1,100
Supplementary Feeding $2,262
Interest on Livestock Cap. $4689
Total $11,677
Gross Margin $19,272

Doubling the percentage of lambs sold per ewe (to 190% - for convenience, but this is normal for Finn cross ewes) adds $27,170 to the Livestock Trading account and $26 354 to the Gross Margin, increasing it to $45,626 an increase of 240%. If we add in interest on the farm (250,000 @ .08%, or $20,000) and other farm costs @ say $10,000, you can easily see how an infusion of Finn genes can increase the gross margin by 1,000% or more!" Sheepnotes, Winter 1996


(From Australia)       0351223328
(Internationally) 613 51223328
& Della Jones,
Gippfinn Finnsheep Stud
4518, Morwell 3840



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