The Merino sheep flock run by Katanning’s pioneering Flugge family was down from the 1970’s heights of 20,000 head, to 1000, and battling negative financial territory when Norman Flugge asked his trusted livestock manager Malcolm Crouch and local Elders agent Russell MacKay to come up with a solution.
Mark Stevens, Elders Katanning, Ascotvale Manager Malcolm Crouch and principal
Norman Flugge with SAMM lambs in stone yards.
“We reached a point about five years ago , where we either had to be running sheep profitably, or we had to be out of them altogether,” Norman said last week.
“The decision was made to switch from Merinos to SAMMS using rams from local breeder Rocco De Bellis, and we have not looked back since. We are now sourcing SAMM rams from the Kerin family who are continuing to build on Rocco’s commercial success.”
N.C.Flugge & Co., of ‘Ascotvale’, Badgebup were WAMMCO’s Producers of the Month for June 2017, with a line of 198 pure SAMM lambs that averaged 22.55 kg to return $144.24, with 95.96 of the consignment recorded in the premium category.
Discussing the success of the lamb venture last week, principal Norm, Manager Malcolm Crouch and local Elders Manager Mark Stephens, - standing in for Russell McKay -, agreed the decision to switch from wool to meat had added considerable stability to the family farming operations.
“We have gone from lambing percentages of around 80 percent with Merinos, to more than 100 percent with SAMMS and have found that the new breed are generally much better ‘doers’.
“The ewe flock now consists of about 3,000 SAMM ewes and we are working to Russell’s next five-year strategy to add further value to the sheep enterprise.
“That is in line with benchmarking and a strict budget criteria that confirms we are a commercial enterprise and the sheep must pay their way.
“Currently our gross margin returns on lamb are comparable with cropping.”
Farm manager Malcolm Crouch said the sheep also had to be ‘out of sight’ during the annual, 4000ha cropping operation.
“There is no time left for the sheep once we move into cropping mode, and their ability to go untended in these periods of high activity is paramount,” he said.
The risk of a dry finish to the current season, following a tricky start, is also high on the farm business agenda.
“Late rains have provided a pick for the sheep and we are hoping for further falls to keep things going,” Norm said. “We have grain on hand for feed or for sale and WAMMCO’s just announced summer lamb contracts may be of interest to us.”
Malcolm recently added more units to a battery of self feeders, - just in case.
Also under consideration in the shorter term is the prospect of converting more lower yielding cropping paddocks to pasture, and using sheep and pastures to reclaim and upgrade marginal and damaged areas of the property.
Norman said he relied on Russell’s advice in marketing the annual crop of lambs in a program that recognised the dependence of both producers and processors on healthy competition.
“However as local shareholders, we tend to put WAMMCO in a separate category because of the stability and innovation the cooperative has brought to lamb production in both technology and marketing, the rebates, rewards and production data it shares with producer members, and its presence in the Great Southern.
Supporting Katanning, along with the Great Southern and the State has been part of a Flugge family heritage that began in the 1890’s when stonemason forebears of the family found the uncleared land around Katanning better value than the land they had discovered near Port Germaine in South Australia.
Norman and Trevor currently operate the partnership as fifth generation members of the family. Norman’s wife Liz is also making a difference to local community life and progress, - as Katanning Shire President.