THERE is a lot of activity on the McNabb family farm despite the continuing delays to harvest.
Ted has been chewing Harry's ear about the last time they had a very wet summer and this is one of those very rare occasions when he has been supportive and helpful.
Ted reckons that this year may turn into the toughest for weaner management that we have seen since the early 1970s.
The farm has lucerne and some summer forage crops that are growing well but very little other quality feed.
Large quantities of spring pasture are rotting away and the quality of remaining standing feed is very low.
Ted can remember wet summers when it has been difficult to achieve good weaner growth rates.
When Harry asked Jill why this happened, she told him that the low digestibility of pasture greatly limits feed intake and lambs cannot physically eat enough to meet their nutritional requirements for growth.
It doesn't matter how much feed is available - it is the lack of quality that will prevent weaners from thriving.
Because growth rate is the key to maximising weaner survival rates, ensuring that Merino weaners are gaining a minimum of 1kg each month following weaning will greatly improve survival.
Jill asked Harry three questions - were lambs weighed at weaning, what do they weigh now and are they gaining weight?
Good weaner management involves weighing a representative sample of lambs to track their progress.
Liveweight targets need to be established and, if minimum liveweight gains are not being met, changes to supplementary feeding rations are required.
If lambs were not weighed at weaning, weigh them now and start tracking their progress.
The feed on offer in paddocks that have regrown after hay or silage cutting is highly digestible if perennial rye-grass, phalaris and fescue species are actively growing.
Lambs may be growing well on low quantities of feed supplement in these paddocks but be aware of potential issues this summer including worms and rye-grass staggers.
Jill and Ted agree that Harry will have to monitor stock closely, and continue to conduct regular worm egg counts (every three to four weeks) to identify any problem before lambs are impacted.
Because of the amount of dry standing, low quality feed in pastures, managing them in the lead-up to the autumn break will be difficult.
Clover germination and establishment require bare ground and access to sunlight and that will prove very difficult to achieve in most pastures this year.
The only option will be the use of large mobs of sheep or cattle in rotation to consume the dry matter.
Cattle are being forced to eat dry feed by strip grazing with electric tapes.
Supplementary feed is provided to ensure that sufficient energy and protein are present in the animal's diet for effective fibre digestion.
- Mike Stephens is a consultant with Mike Stephens and Associates.