A Survey of New South Wales Sheep Producer Practices and Perceptions on Lamb Mortality and Ewe Supplementation
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University), Albert Pugsley Place, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia
School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia
College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, 784 Wilson Road, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 August 2020
Revised: 3 September 2020
Accepted: 3 September 2020
Published: 5 September 2020
High lamb mortality rates following birth reduce on-farm profitability and contribute to perceived lower animal welfare standards of the sheep industry. The aim of this study was to understand producer knowledge of lamb mortality rates, causes of lamb mortality, and to investigate practices and perceptions of producers that may contribute to lamb deaths. Approximately 50% of producers estimated less than 10% lamb mortality between birth and marking, compared to published data in Australia reporting around 20–25% mortality rate. Clostridial vaccination of lambs was undertaken by 96% of producers; however, 17% of Merino and 23% of crossbred lamb producers indicated only one vaccination was administered, instead of the recommended initial vaccination plus booster. This lower estimated mortality rate and misuse of vaccination may lead to producers underestimating the perceived benefits of management strategies, as the number of lambs lost is of less concern. It is important producers are aware of the actual on-farm lamb losses to allow accurate determination of the benefits of management strategies, such as pre-lambing supplementation and vaccination.