Staple strength is the second major trait affecting the value of raw wool. Despite this, there is conflicting evidence regarding the absolute effect of pregnancy status on this important wool trait. The 'EverGraze' project has a large number of ewes bearing single or twin ewes. Shearing in May 2008 will provide the opportunity for an honours student to collect a large amount of data on wool characteristics, including fleece weight, fibre diameter and staple strength. This data can then be analysed in relation to ewes in 2007 that gave birth and/or reared single/twin lambs. The economic cost on wool value of ewes bearing or rearing multiples can then be calculated. This is important information given current recommendations on increasing reproductive performance take little account of the consequent reductions in wool income.
Perennial pastures offer a range of environmental benefits including reduced groundwater recharge, improved groundcover and biodiversity, and potentially improved carbon sequestration, in comparison to annual-based pasture systems which predominate in southern Australia. However, perennial pastures are expensive to establish, so for broadscale adoption of perennial pastures, livestock producers need to see an economic advantage of including perennials in their system. EverGraze is a suite of projects running 900 breeding ewes near Wagga on perennial pastures. At our 63ha systems site, we are investigating how profitably various merino-based systems utilise farmlets which are comprised of lucerne, tall fescue and phalaris based pastures. At our reproduction site, we are investigating the role of lucerne in increasing the ovulation rate of both synchronised and unsynchronised ewes, and also the role of acacia shrub rows in improving lamb survival. The student will receive training over 10 weeks in sheep management, condition scoring, pasture assessment, data analyses, and, depending on the timing of the studentship, may receive training in rectal ultrasonography for ovulation rate and/or the estimation of forage intake using n-alkanes.