Summary There is a high level of demand for lamb exports from New Zealand, the world over and

to meet this demand all year round, a new way of increasing production was required, thus outof-season lambing has been used for some time now. This has been focused on the production of early lambs, taking advantage of the premium prices it commands. To further extend the availability of lambs, accelerated lambing systems (based on the 5 star system developed in Cornell University, USA) that produce 5 crops of lambs in 3 years or 3 in 2 years, on pasture and forage systems have been researched and found to be feasible. This ensures that New Zealand producers meet the export demand for their lamb while ensuring uniformity in quality. This report will examine the principles of this system and the conditions under which it works.

With the removal of government subsidy in 1984, the sheep industry was forced to become the major driving force of its own progress, with the government relegated to a supporting role. An organisation was formed called the meat and wool New Zealand (now known as Beef + Lamb New Zealand), functioning similar to that of the British pork executive (BPEX), funded by levies on each animal (beef, sheep and deer) slaughtered and per kilogram of wool. The organisation uses these funds to carry out marketing campaigns both internationally and locally for New Zealand red meat and wool, fund research and development into improvement of the industry; and support dissemination of research, industry and market information to livestock producers, while encouraging them to apply the information provided towards increased productivity (Gooch and Firth, 2007). As a result of this, the meat industry in New Zealand has become very highly developed.With exports worth $5.14 billion in 2009; (Jones, 2009) and 90% of sheep and lamb produced exported yearly, which makes up about 38% of the global supply of sheep meat. 50% of these exports go to the United States and the European Union (Jones, 2009, Beef +Lamb New Zealand, 2011).This is facilitated by the existence of only one grading standard for the whole country and this is on par with USDA and EU standards, it is done by non-government third party organisations (Gooch and Firth, 2007). Individual traceability of lamb carcasses is strongly encouraged and voluntary; it is largely market driven and not by legislation. The system of lamb production has traditionally been tailored to fit the seasonal pattern of pasture growth, this does not allow for a consistent supply of lambs for slaughter (Morris,et al, 2004). The year-round lambing system (also referred to as accelerated lambing)provides a solution to this problem.The system discussed in this report was developed in Cornell University by Hogue (1987) and has been successfully used since then in the USA. With an average gestation of 5 months in sheep, it is theoretically possible to have 2 crops of lamb per year, however in practice this is not yet achieved but research is on-going towards this aim. In any case, in addition to the exceptionally high quality standards of the meat industry in New Zealand, the success of the system, which is new in the country, is evident in one of their farming businesses being named Marks and Spencer s (M&S) top food supplier for the year ended July 2010, for their year round supply of lamb (Meat Trade News Daily, 2010). These are not the only lamb producers in New Zealand to enter such an arrangement with M&S but are only one of the many contracted with Rissington Breedline and Silver Fern, top rated breeding companies in New Zealand (meatinfo, 2006, Gooch and Firth, 2007). This is relevant as M&S are known for their high standards and strictness with respect to quality, taste, size 1

Highlander and Primera (de Nicolo. and high out-of-season pregnancy rates is a prerequisite. and demand is kept reasonable by discerningconsumers. 2007. 2007). the average gestation period of sheep) and the ewe flock into 3.Progesterone is used to synchronise breeding periods and equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) to induce reproductive activity. this translates to an added profit of about $18. this leads to higher costs of about $0. 2007. de Nicolo. 2008).This is also underlined by several other counter season production deals between UK retailers and New Zealand producers. Tescos and Waitrose (Gooch and Firth. The Cornell star system The practice requires the use of exogenous hormones to induce oestrus in the ewes out of their normal breeding season.720 annually (Gooch and Firth. 2001). this gene in its heterozygous form increases scanning rate by 30-50%. Off-season lamb production The prices for lamb are generally controlled by market forces of demand and supply. the system also allows for better market development (Hogue. This breed effect is exploited by the use of compositebreeds like the Eastern Friesian. when supply is low (usually in off-seasons). e. which are younger than those remaining from the normal spring lambing flocks from mid -season or store lamb production systems (Sormunen-Cristian and Suvela.5 per kg of lamb but this should be covered by the additional profit made from premiums paid (Gooch and Firth. It does have a downside of causing infertility in the homozygous occurrence but this is averted by careful breeding management. ovulation rate and number of eggs implanted and thus lambing percentagetherefore increase.. onstant feeding and C labour is required for flushing and to maintain adequate planes of nutrition all year round if the aim of high conception rates is to be achieved. 2007). 1991. prices are high. thereby giving a continual supply of lamb. In the star system. Grennan. 2007). 2007). Market forcesin addition to large retail chains that constantly need to supply their customers with consistent quality lamb all year round make this quite a profitable venture for producers. Each of the ewe flocks will lamb at one of the 5 2 . 2007. who can pay the premium for out-of-season lambs (Gooch and Firth. Year round production A niche market exists that require lambs in the November to February period.g. 2007). the aim is to produce 5 crops of lamb in 3 years thus the year is divided into 5 segments of 73 days each (2/5 of a year being 146 days. This gives an extra incentive for producers and is the rationale for early season lamb production as is practiced usually by farmers. thus a high fertility flock of maternal ewes that will breed anytime of the year is required. enabling breeding in rotation and weaning to occur every 73 days. with The average lambing rate in New Zealand is 125% (Gooch and Firth. This requirement is further ensured by the use of innovative technologies like genetic testing for the Inverdale gene. it only needs to be ensured that lamb survival can be maintained. 1999. Requirements Breeding in sheep is seasonal.and their insistence that farmers adhere to environmental and animal welfare standards. this is ensured by the implementation of a payment grid system which reflects market demands. Thus. Jones. de Nicolo et al. these constitute added cost and labour as well (de Nicolo. 2009). 2007). de Nicolo.

if a ewe misses one mating can easily be moved on to the next one and still produce 1. however they must be 73 days apart to ensure a steady supply of lambs. Figure 1 below illustrates the system. In this system. Figure1: The Cornell Star Accelerated Lambing system Source: Hogue (1991) Cornell University Feeding Animals in the 3 groups below are treated as different flocks as their requirements vary.33 crops of lamb per year. 3 . The 5 lambing dates can be rotated to suit the producers convenience. ie it will lamb at each point of the star. one which does not miss any will produce 1.times per year. rebred a week later.5 lamb crops per year. lambs are weaned at between 45-60 days and the ewes. it would still produce 1.67. procedures below are according to the Cornell system. Even if a ewe misses 3 cycles.

which would normally only be used once in a year. 2004. The biological efficiency of meat production from sheep would also be increased (Morris et al. this can be easily catered for within the herd. de Nicolo. de Nicolo. With increased productivity. with Eastern Friesians having higher pregnancy rates than Romney type ewes (Morris et al. Growing lambs are fed a balanced ration until they reach market weight. which are generally solved by the prerequisites for success of the system. Jones. this has been achieved under experimental conditions (Morris et al. depending on the time of year. He mentioned dystocia and the fact 4 . 2008). 2007. Lambing rates rates in year round systems are also lower but this is circumvented by the shortened breeding period between scheduled matings as the ewes are simply added on to the next batch. especially due to the higher rate of lamb production. thus there is an increased replacement rate. 2004). total mixed ration is usually adopted for this purpose. 2004. Ewes are fed good quality hay or silage free choice. Ewe dairy milking units could also produce all year round. research has shown that ewes conception rates are relatively lower (by between 27-39%). Lambingorlactating ewes and their lambs require a relatively higher level of nutrition and management all year round. also lower birth weights were observed in the year round system but this is because they were weaned earlier at 69 days as opposed to 96 days (Morris et al. there is also a variation between breeds. The additional profit to be gained is quite an obvious advantage as well. Animal welfare issues Very little research has been done on the welfare of animals reared under this system however Fisher s (2001 and 2004) analyses of out-of-season lambing systems raise a few questions. 2007). they can be housed or left to pasture for at least some part of the time. when indoors. depending on weather situations. 2007). Fixed costs are reduced. lambs are also introduced to creep feed at about 2 weeks of age to weaning. 2004.Breeding and pregnant ewesare relatively low maintenance and can be successfullyreared year round on pasture. the system ensures more efficient use of farm facilities like lambing sheds and pens.. producing more uniform supply. life expectancy of ewes are lower. Lactating ewes must not be allowed to lose too much weight to ensure they are in good condition for breeding after weaning. genetics. Challenges Seasonality of breeding. As lambs weigh less. 2010). It also ensures the abattoirs are more efficient by enabling then use their facilities for 12 months as opposed to some having to shut down for 6 months when no lambs were sent to slaughter(Morriset al. All lambs in this group can be fed and managed together even though they are not sold as the same batchand the market weight depends on the breeds of these animals Advantages Ewes lamb more than once per year. 2004. photoperiod and nutrition (Geske and Adams.In addition to added costs mentioned in previous sections. de Nicolo. 2007). as affected by ewe age. 2 options are available to even this out: they may be weaned and specially grown continually at fast rates or they may be kept suckling on the ewe for longer periods while she is gotten back in lamb whilst still lactating. with concentrate added at 1lb per lamb.

that most New Zealand ewes lamb under the easy care system. year round lambs are generally smaller than their counterparts in the annual system. without exogenous hormones. Poor feeding is another issue raised. 2004). There appears to be an effect of breed on conception rates. especially since offspring of a ewe with the ability also exhibit the same (Hogue. like increased susceptibility to disease. Conclusion Adoption of year round production of lambs is still limited to producers with incentives from large retail chains. there appears to be no real indication of poorer welfare in animals under this system. 2007) but more research needs to be done on the reason for the relatively lower conception rates of 68% in New Zealand (East Friesian) ewes to enable full exploitation of this system for better productivity. Adverse effects of low birth weight. For there to be wider adoption by generality of farmers there needs to be a stronger assurance of the premiums they will get to enable them recoup their costs even without such high grade contracts. however. hence the incidence of dystocia is quite rare. from literature. autumn and winter in some New Zealand regions are actually more suitable periods for lambing as they are mild weathered. As is done at Cornell. as regards availability of feed. Maternal non-recognition of pregnancy is suspected (de Nicolo. which enables them quickly recoup their costs in respect of labour. 2001. 991). where no human assistance is given.The incidence of pregnancy toxaemia and staggers can be overcome by supplementary feeding in autumn and winter (Fisher. with higher incidence of feed deficit and flystrike. 5 . it is possible to practice year round breeding without the use of exogenous hormones. In general. hormones and feeding. poor nutrition and exposure also seem to be offset by lower litter size in this system. Care should still be taken as to the feeding regimes of animals under this system to prevent malnourishment which could also lead to increased disease susceptibility and even mortality. 2008). by selecting for ability to breed out-of-season. it is difficult to induce ovulation during the summer (de Nicolo. and lambs are slaughtered before summer. this needs to be further investigated to establish or utilise (composite) breeds better suited to this system of production.

Surveillance28(3).beeflambnz. M. Pages 278-289.massey. http://www. PhD thesis http://muir. Issues 3-4. Livestock Production http://www. http://www.M&S in deal to supply NZ lamb all year round. (2001) Lambing management inNew Zealand: ethics andwelfare considerations . J. Accelerated and out-of-season lamb production in New Zealand. M.cornell. (1991). Co. Induced seasonal reproductive performance in two breeds of sheep.sciencedirect.pdf Meat info (2006).Kansas 4-H Sheep Leader Notebook Level IV.hccmpw.sciquest. J. P.G. S.(2008). J. Galway.pdf. Pages 165-172.qc.sciencedirect. Athenry. Extending the season for prime lamb production from B69BA40F7405628EAE2A6E8?sequence=1 DeNicolo. Volume 103.. (2011).org. A review of the welfare implications of out-of-season extensive lamb production systems in New Volume 85.ksu. De %20final%20report. Animal Reproduction Science.pdf accessed 30-03-2011 Grennan. (2004). Accessed 30-03-2011 T. http://www. (2009).W. http://www. Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Services.agrireseau. Adams. E.html. (2007). Accessed 3003-2011. Sheep Research Centre. http://www. article published August 04 2006. and_%3A_ethics_and_welfare_considerations Fisher.http://www.C.End of project report: sheep series no. Parkinson. Geske. Firth. (2001). (2007) New Zealand Lamb industry fact finding mission report.How is New Zealand changing its lamb production systems to meet its changing Markets?Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales. Sheep management on the star breeding system.References Beef + Lamb New Zealand (2011). Kenyon. Accessed 31-03-2011 6 .cfm?id=261 accessed 30-032011..php/aid/4980/M_S_in_deal_to_supply_NZ_lamb_all_y ear_round.R.T. P. Teagasc.H. http://meatinfo. Irish Agricultural and Food Authority internal publication project no. M.. Jones S.J.http://www. Canadian sheep Fisher.W.ksre. Issues 2-3.

uk/news/270710/uk___nz_lamb_at_marks_and_spenc from year one. http://www. Scott I. Pomroy WE.meattradenewsdaily. West. (2007).. Gray.H. D.W.. M.sheep. Out-of-season lambing of Finnish Landrace ewes.T.cornell. How to start and maintain the STAR accelerated lambing system. Meattradenewsdaily. Sormunen-Cristian.. Small Ruminant Research.C. P. P. Accessed 31-03-2011 Morris.aspx. Issue 3. News article published July 31 2010.... Peterson. Pages 265272. Suvela. S. 30-03-2011 7 . Morel.. S.html . M. NZ lambs at Marks and Thonney.M.R.L. (2004). Kenyon. Volume 31. D. Year-round lamb production in the Manawatu region . P. D... http://www. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 66:215-219. (1999). Kemp.Meat trade news daily.http://www.D.

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