SheepBytes Validation 2014 - 2015

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 2014/2016 - Predicting feeder lamb performance: a validation of SheepBytes® feeding recommendations

Between 40% and 70% of the cost to produce lambs for slaughter is directly attributed to feed. The SheepBytes® ration balancing program has been created to assist in managing flock nutrition for optimum productivity.

SheepBytes® is based on combined NRC 2007 and 1985 requirements for small ruminants which are largely based on conditions seen in the United States. The recommendations may not completely account for feeds, breed types and environmental conditions seen on the Canadian prairies. SheepBytes® does provide modifiers (for animal type, physiological status, performance level, body condition score, cold and heat stress and wool length), in regards to their effect on nutrient requirements.
A project validating the program under typical Alberta and using GrowSafe® systems technology to assess individual feed intake was undertaken. The project was funded by Growing Forward 2, ALMA and Alberta Agriculture. Project goals included:
  1. Validation of SheepBytes® rations for intact feeder ram lambs under Alberta conditions.
  2. Use SheepBytes® and GrowSafe® technologies to evaluate lamb performance (feed intake, average daily gain, feed:gain, feed efficiency, days on feed to market weight) on two typical barley-based, finishing rations.
  3. Monitor costs and carcass quality.

Rideau cross and Suffolk, Dorset and Canadian Arcott cross ram lambs were used. The lambs were fed barley-based finishing rations over the summers of 2014 and 2015. The lambs entered the feedlots at an average of 20 kg body weight and were sent for slaughter when they reached an average live weight of 52 kg. Daily feed intake and average daily gain were monitored on every lamb.

Actual dry matter intake of individual feeder ram lambs was compared to the predicted dry matter intake from the SheepBytes® computer ration balancing program. The findings show that SheepBytes® over-predicts the feed intake of feeder ram lambs by approximately 15%.

This is one research project one type of feeder lambs from two flocks that identified feeder animal intakes on the high side. This research, user-feedback and on-going program evaluation are used to improve SheepBytes®. As a web-based program it is upgraded regularly to improve performance and reliability.

Project team
Dr. Susan Markus
Lakeland College, Olds College
SunGold Specialty Meats

For more information: “Sheep Profits – Managing what you can measure
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Amrit Matharu.
This information published to the web on July 15, 2016.