A decision to cross their AMS ewes with SAMM rams five years ago is helping Pithara farmers and WAMMCO’s July Producer of the Month title winners, Hedley and June Falls towards a truly sustainable farming enterprise.
The couple have retained enough hectares to feed and run a flock of 500 SAMM-dominant ewes.
“We decided to try farming for a profit, rather than borrowing money to farm through droughts,” Hedley said this week.
Their draft of 140 SAMM lambs achieved the highest WAMMCO Select percentage of 62.1% (87 lambs) yet recorded for a POM winner, and resulted in a bonus payment of $499.17, or an extra $3.60 per lamb over the consignment.
The lambs averaged 22.10 kilograms and earned $5.20 per kilogram on the daily schedule to return $115.87 per head. Top lambs in the draft returned more than $150 per head.
Hedley said the family’s prime lamb enterprise was tailored to the WAMMCO system about four years ago, because of the flexibility, returns and feedback it offered. “Initially we looked at Q-Lamb, but our concern for droughts and commitments to feeding regimes demanded a more flexible form of management.
“We try to wean the lambs onto lupin stubbles before they go onto wheat stubbles with some hand feeding of lupins to top them up. Once they reach 45 kg bodyweight, they are sent to Katanning.”
The move to lamb production and adoption of a flexible management program follow hard lessons learnt from drought and ongoing low wool prices.
“In 2002 we agisted about 2,000 ewes and there were no sheep on this property for the first time in 50 years of farming,” Hedley said. “In 2006 we culled out all of our older ewes and bought in feed before running into another difficult season in 2007. The current season has been much more manageable.”
Hedley said his original AMS ewe flock had provided a solid foundation for the prime lamb enterprise, having been built on stock from Mike Dodd’s AMS genetics at Buntine.
SAMM rams have been purchased over the past five years from David Thorn at Toodyay and Graham Sutherland at Badgingarra and more will be added as required.
83 year-old father John still helps Hedley and June with most of the hand feeding. “At first he questioned our switch to SAMMs,” Hedley said. “The first crop of lambs left no doubt.”