WAMMCO producers of the month for February Richard and Di Smith are amongst an increasing number of farmers changing their cropping/lamb enterprise mix.
The couple sold their cattle two years ago, and are now changing their cropping/lamb production ratio on ‘Ferndale’, near Beverley, from 50/50 to 60/40 in favour of prime lambs and wool production.
“There is more work with lambs, but the inputs are proportionately less than cropping, and the underwriting available through WAMMCO’s supply contracts provides the essential stability we need,” Richard said.
Winning WAMMCO’s Producer of the Month title was a bonus of the best season for several years, and lamb productivity improvements achieved through investments in genetics, nutrition and higher management.
The winning entry of 121 Merino/Poll Dorset/SAMM cross lambs was processed at Katanning on February 22. The average carcase weight was 25.85 kg with nearly 82 percent in the premium class, 22-28 kg, fat score 2-3. At $3.33 per kg and with a skin value of 89 cents, the lambs averaged $87 per head.
Richard and Di attribute an infusion of SAMMs from Cullam, Jerramungup with a successful 10 year cross-breeding program based on Poll Dorsets from Eric Heal’s, Dongadilling stud and Chris Squires’s Shirlee Downs stud and a concise mating program with supplementary feeding recommended by Dr John Milton, and improvements in management to their successful marketing of 90 percent lambs to ewes initially mated.
With the improved growth and fertility and better feed conversion they are now achieving, Richard believes he can look at increasing his stocking rates, even in lighter years, and has already started a pasture upgrading strategy within his five year cropping rotation.
“Last year’s good season enabled us to deliver more April/May drop lambs straight off their mothers and gave the August/September drop lambs such a good start that they required minimum finishing off in the feedlot,” Richard said.
Confining the mating cycles to 30-35 days as recommended by John Milton three years ago, has not only resulted in higher fertility and more uniformity within groups of lambs, it has also greatly assisted management of the 2,600 ewe breeding flock.
With the August/September drop, a smaller backgrounding feedlot has proved a cheap method of bringing slower maturing lambs up to speed before they go onto a ration of 707 pellets in the major feedlot.
The enterprise moved to feedlotting with pellets instead of an oat/lupin mix two years ago when a bad season dramatically reduced crop yields on the property.
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