Yass – Sheep – Wool Impacts & Adaptations
Impacts on production and profitability
The impacts on pasture and livestock production and farm profitability, based on a “business as usual” model for a wool sheep enterprise at Yass are shown below:
- Compared to the period 1970-1999, in 2000-2009:
- Annual pasture production was down by 13%, requiring stocking rate to be reduced by 17% to maintain ground cover
- Profitability was down by 46% as a result
- Looking forward to 2030, compared to the base period 1970 – 1999, the 4 different climate scenarios showed:
- To maintain minimum ground cover, a decrease in stocking rate (DSE/ha) was needed (average 29%), even for the model which had higher annual pasture production.
- The reduced stocking rates lowered profits by 41 % on average, with a range of 14 % to 87%.
- The impacts on production and profitability were similar in 2030 compared to the dry 2000-2009 period
- A native perennial grass which has the potential to be green all year round provides a strong buffer to the changes in the temperature and rainfall. While the decline in annual pasture production is similar for both pasture types, the pasture with the native is able to maintain ground cover at a higher DSE.
The impact of adaptations
The following table shows the impact of various adaptations on the profitability of a wool sheep enterprise in Yass
- Continued genetic improvement between now and 2030 is critical to offset the decreased stocking rate. This comment applies to all sheep enterprises and locations.
- Using summer feedlots in those years when required is an effective way to manage minimum ground cover and utilisation of the extra winter production.
- The following management changes – earlier selling of wether lambs, an earlier lambing date, increasing reproductive rate by 10%, changing ewe age structure, using various rest intervals up to 60 days in grazing - had no or only a small effect by themselves, but may be of some benefit if combined.
- Moving to a trading operation rather than breeding looked attractive but it was very dependant on being able to source the required number of stock. If stock numbers were only at 90 % of requirements then the strategy was no better. In reality the risk of not being able to buy the required number is high. Opportunistic trading within an enterprise is beneficial.
- Changing sheep enterprises is not the answer.
- The combination of summer feedlots, when required, and current genetic improvement has benefits now and in the future. Other changes may need to be implemented in the future as pasture conditions change. A combination of factors will give the best outcome.
- The need for and benefits of the summer feedlot diminishes for the native pasture component but would be valuable in major droughts to protect perennial species.