Ewe Productivity Trials


Peppin-Shaw Riverina Ewe Flock Competition, Hay

The Peppin-Shaw started in 1987 and has been held annually since except for two years, one due to drought the other due to rain. Its aim is to promote the commercial sheep in the Hay district on their own property. It enables potential buyers to see the young ewes in their own environment and the judges encourage discussion during forums in the sheep yards. The competition held in the first quarter of the year covers 1,000 kilometres of the western Riverina covering 10 properties over two days.
An air-conditioned coach follows the judges from property to property for two days, or follow in own car. Contact the Secretary, Stacey Lugsdin, 0428 931 931.

Don Brown Memorial Ewe Competition, Condobolin

Contact Carol-Ann Malouf 02 6895 2274 Email: carol-annmalouf@bigpond.com

Tablelands Flock Ewe Competition, Mudgee (central west NSW area)

Encompassing approximately a 700 kilometre area surrounding the Mudgee central west of NSW, the flock ewe competion has been running since 1999 and takes two days for judges to visit and select the winning placegetters. In 2013 there were 16 flocks in the competition. First place was awarded to the Inder family at Dunedoo for the second year running. Their flock, based on Langdene blood ewes, was described as being “large framed, productive with a good white wool type”.


Elmore Trials

Results from the 6 year Elmore trial, Ewes for the Future – Lambs, Wool and Profit – completed in 2015 compared the merits of five alternative sheep types and confirms the profitability of Merinos.  With lower risk, particularly in tight seasons when significantly higher feed needs are taken into account, the Merino had the highest $/DSE return at $69 and $70 compared to the other groups at $57-61.


This graph is an extract from AWI Beyond the Bale.  – click here for more.

 The following article also on this trial is an extract from The Top Sire 2015-16

Merinos top ewe trial

 The results are in for the six-year Elmore Field Days’ Ewes for the Future trial, and Merinos have performed well at the northern Victoria site compared to the first-cross and composite types.

At the recent presentation of the results, Kieran Ransom, formerly of DPI Bendigo, said in this Elmore trial all 210 ewes – including 42 of each Border Leicester Merino (BLM) 1st cross, Loddon Valley Merino, Centre Plus Merino, Dohne and Prime South African Meat Merino (SAMM) – were joined to White Suffolk rams and were run together, except at lambing, for six lambing cycles.

The sheep committee chairman, Ged McCormick, said these types were chosen because they were all used in commercial operations within 20 km of the Elmore trial site.

Ewes representing each breed were sourced from three properties to reduce the impact of genetic variability between flocks within a breed on the trial.

Mr Ransom said comparing the profitability of terminal sires joined to alternative ewe breeds was complex, and was made all the more difficult by climate and price (including for wool, sheepmeat and supplementary grain) variability experienced in the last decade or more.

Mr Ransom said a strength of this trial was that the average returns – from both lamb and wool – were adjusted for lambing percentage. “Lambing percentage is the biggest driver of profit in a sheep enterprise,” he said.

The BLM (the most common prime lamb mother in northern Victoria) and SAMM ewes both had 132 per cent lambs marked on average over five adult lambings, compared to the Centre Plus Merino with 116 pc and Loddon Valley Merino and Dohne, both at 96 pc.

As expected, these two meat-focused types were also heavier at joining and had heavier lambs before sale, with SAMM lambs recording an average weight of 48.5 kg and BLM 47.7 kg, compared to Centre Plus Merino at 46.1 kg, Dohne 46.3 kg and Loddon Valley Merino 44.3 kg.

However, these ewe-lamb units also had significantly higher feed needs, which Mr Ransom said exposed them to more risk in poor climatic conditions.

“When looking at profitability, you have to look at fluctuations in costs and incomes, not just averages,” Mr Ransom said.

“I looked at 28 years of data, and in the last 14 years, prime lamb enterprises had poorer return per hectare because of climate variability, and when droughts hit, you have to buy in supplementary feed and grain price skyrockets with increased demand, and drought-affected young lambs are sold at low weights and drought prices.”

Sheep types that have been bred for wool quantity and quality can provide a more consistent income stream even through climate peaks and troughs.

In the trial, Loddon Valley Merinos’ wool clip made an average of $52.96 during the five years as adult ewes, and Centre Plus Merinos made $49.67, which gave them a buffer in poor weather conditions compared to Dohnes making $38.70, SAMMs $23.17 and BLMs $19.94.

“You’ve got to look at what breed combinations can get you through a drought,” Mr Ransom said.

“In a good season, not much difference between Merinos and first-crosses, but in poorer seasons when supplementary feed is needed, there could be a huge difference, maybe up to $100 a hectare because Merinos require less feed and have wool incomes.”

Other interesting findings include post mortems on dead lambs found the different breed groups had similar results, of about 35 pc to a difficult birth, 30 pc due to being born too small, 30 pc due to mismothering, and only about 2 pc were killed by foxes.

Mr Ransom also said that well-run sheep farming systems could in many cases be more profitable than cropping, and for cropping to beat these northern Victorian sheep operations that had animals grazing on annual lucerne pastures and residues over summer, cropping needed “super soils” and to achieve 80 pc water-use efficiency.

The trial is run by the Elmore Field Days in co-operation with the Campaspe Lamb Producers Group; data was collected by Mr Ransom and statistical analysis was conducted at the University of Adelaide with financial support from Australian Wool Innovation.

Extract from The Top Sire 2015-16

Article reproduced with permission, Stock & Land (20 April 2015)

The full report of this trial is available on the Elmore Field Days website www.elmorefielddays.com.au



MERINO is the most profitable breed of sheep in the market place, according to the results of independent trials conducted in WA.

Ewe productivity trials to benchmark sheep for both meat, total weight lambs produced, and wool production have been undertaken for some years by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA). With over 21 teams benchmarked to date and another 50 still progressing through the program the results support the dominance of the Merino breed. Amongst the teams are a SAMM x Merino cross, F1 and F2 Dohne Merino x Merino cross and a Finn x Merino cross.

The table below shows the average income from both meat and wool for all teams, with the top 16 teams being all Merino bloodlines.

Estimated total income per ewe, using performance data from different Merino types and crosses over three shearings and two lambings in WA ewe productivity trials:

 Team rank  Wool returns  Meat returns  Total returns Breed type





F1 Dohne
F2 Dohne
Finn cross

Total average income $136.91

DAFWA Project Manager, Sheep Genetics, Dr Johan Greeff said the Merino is the major sheep breed in Australia, but recent importations of new breeds had created the impression that the Merino was not as productive as claimed. Overseeing the research and productivity trials Dr Greeff said the results supported the Merino’s dominance. The productivity trials are an ongoing activity and more results will be available as more research is conducted.

“DAFWA maintains and co-ordinates benchmarking activities and conducts data collection, data analysis and the establishment of the trials,” Dr Greeff said.

For more information contact Dr Greeff on 08 9368 3624.