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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Poor lamb-marking percentages? Let’s ‘webinar’ the topic!

Posted by Bestprac on May 01 2012

By Allie Jones, Livestock Extension Officer and Charlotte Cavanagh, Veterinary Officer, NSW DPI (Bourke)

Staff from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) received numerous reports of low conception and lamb marking rates during 2011. The reports came from producers who had expected good results, given the good seasonal conditions, and were having trouble explaining and understanding the poor results. Similar reports were received from a number of regions across a large part of NSW.

DPI staff considered that a webinar might be a useful tool for discussing the issue of poor conception and lamb-marking rates with producers. A webinar is an interactive seminar or presentation that is delivered over the Internet and telephone.

Over 60 people participated in two successful webinars held on 13 and 19 December 2011; the first webinar was oversubscribed, so a second one was held the following week.

The aim of the webinar was to:

  • introduce producers to the concept of the webinar
  • deliver information about potential reproduction issues
  • discuss approaches to understanding what has occurred in flocks
  • talk over what has been seen in flocks in a number of regions
  • discuss what these observations may mean
  • decide what needs to be done.

Greg Curran (Technical Specialist, Animal Health Western Division), who is based in Broken Hill, delivered a PowerPoint presentation and discussed, with participants, the many factors that could have contributed to the poor results. Webinar participants were able to see and hear Greg’s presentation, which included maps, pictures and summary points, on their computers. Participants were also able to ask questions and make comments.

Landholder Bronwyn Turner participating in her first webinar at the NSW DPI office in Hay. Photo by Sally WareThe webinar enabled concerned stakeholders, who may otherwise have been isolated by distance, to have a valuable and inclusive discussion. Participants (including producers, district veterinarians and advisors from NSW, SA and QLD) contributed ideas about the likely reasons for poor results in their districts. Producers from a number of regions were able to provide detailed accounts of what had been observed in their flocks. The webinar provided an opportunity for producers to communicate and discuss their opinions with Greg and fellow attendees.


Left: Landholder Bronwyn Turner participating in her first webinar at the NSW DPI office in Hay. Photo by Sally Ware
 

The result was a practical and technical discussion which allowed participants to think through what and when things went wrong. Were the losses between conception and birth, or between birth and lambing? Potential causes include poor fertility of ewes and rams; lack of ewe and ram contact because of changes in paddock size/flock size or isolation caused by floodwaters; protein deficits; and reduced fat scores of ewes and rams at key times during the breeding cycle. Other factors were the impacts of heat stress, weather conditions, disease spread and irritation caused by mosquitoes and midges, as well as the huge impact in some areas of predation of newborn lambs.

Although producers may have been hoping for a solution to the problem, this expectation was not shared by the host Allie Jones and presenter Greg Curran. The information gathered established that numerous factors contributed to the lack of lambs on the ground at lamb marking. The scenario often varied between producers and properties.

The feedback from participants in regard to the technology of webinars was very positive: 100% of attendees who filled out their survey would recommend the technology use of webinar to others.

A couple of comments from the producers who joined the webinar are listed below:

  • Very well put together and highly relevant, as sheep fertility – particularly for Merinos – is the Achilles heel of the sheep industry, and now is the most vital time ever to improve it.
  • Thank you. As we are not producers yet and intend to get back on the land, it is good to be able to get access to relevant info and producers’ experience and ideas. Thank you for the opportunity to attend this webinar.
  • Logged on and followed webinar instructions, very straightforward, found it easy.

NSW DPI staff are optimistic that webinars will offer another practical way of delivering resources and information to producers in NSW. Recent challenges have seen a decrease in the numbers of producers attending workshops and field days, in remote areas, because of many reasons including cost of travel and time constraints. Such changes are forcing extension educators to find new and efficient means to continue providing quality programs. Online technology, such as webinars, is one tool that can be used by extension staff to reach producers and industry representatives.

Having the ability to create, host, and facilitate access to information over the Internet creates many new opportunities for NSW DPI staff and producers. Major advantages of using webinars for online educational programming include affordability, simple technological requirements, ease of access, synchronous communication, interaction, real-time dissemination of information, immediate feedback, ability to reach a geographically dispersed audience, and no requirement for travel by participants or presenters.
 

Last changed: Feb 18 2013

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