10 Nov 2014

Sheep research farms begin work

1:50 pm on 10 November 2014

Lincoln University has officially launched its new sheep research farms, aimed at increasing the productivity and profitability of sheep farming.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

Professor of Agricultural Systems, Tony Bywater, said the new research programme, LincolnSheep, would look at several farming systems in different environments.

He said the research would focus on a summer safe environment and a summer dry environment.

"In the summer dry environment our philosophy is that intensifying production and at the same time increasing flexibility allows you to increase productivity, increase profitability but reduce the variability of profit," he said.

"The best way of doing that from our perspective is to have a small area of irrigated finishing land so you can move sale stock off the dryland property on a pre-planned schedule, so that you're not so concerned about the weather going dry and lack of feed etc."

Professor Bywater said in the summer safe environment, the research would look at a variety of different ways of trying to increase productivity and remove constraints to productivity.

It's an idea that's not new according to Professor Bywater

"If you go back 10 or 15 years, then there were quite a number of irrigated finishing units in Canterbury and elsewhere in the country and of course that has been gradually overtaken by the dairy expansion.

"Our argument would be that the opportunity cost of that land is not dairy farming, it's actually what you can do on your home dryland breeding unit."

He said increasing productivity on the dryland breeding unit can yield around $350 to $400 per hectare of increased profit.

"And on a 10-to-1 ratio, we think that will increase profitability on the irrigated land by $3500 to $4000, which brings it right up to the kinds of returns you can get from dairy farming, but with a third of the capital cost."

Professor Bywater said another area the LincolnSheep research programme will look into is the potential benefits of radio frequency identification for sheep.

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