February Producer of the Month for WAMMCO, Peter Mills of Ikewa Grazing, Mingenew was surprised to win the award.
“I have had heavier lambs in past years and the February 2011 line went to WAMMCO straight off lupin stubbles with no supplementary feeding despite a relatively tight season .
“At my invitation, WAMMCO livestock buyer Wayne Radford offered a good price on farm for the consignment of 306 SAMM/Merino cross lambs, but I decided to stay with the WAMMCO daily schedule and we averaged $5.41 over the scales to return $130.29 (including $3.80 for the skin) for lambs weighing an average of 23.37 kg.”
WAMMCO Select added a bonus of $6.12 on 198 qualifying bodies, or a payment of $1,210.92, equivalent to 16.9 kg across the 306 lamb consignment.
Individual lambs in the consignment returned up to $152.73 per head over the scales.
Peter said he was also pleasantly surprised to learn from the WAMMCO website that his lambs had averaged $85 per head since 1999, justifying his conviction to retain a good balance of sheep over total cropping.
“My father Ken had traditionally used Border Leicester rams over Merino ewes and with wool in the doldrums, I was keen to keep the sheep, but to capitalise on the better prospects for prime lamb.
“We used SAMM rams from neighbour Rob Campbell’s Enokurra stud over a big proportion of our Merino ewes about three years ago, then followed up with SAMMS the following year. We kept the best first and second cross ewes and mated them again to SAMMS, with valuable crossbred lambs as a result.
“About a third of our ewe flock is still Merino producing under 20 micron wool and we believe the SAMM cross and a nucleus of Merino genetics, will allow us to return to viable wool production if circumstances change.,” Peter said.
However the brighter prospects for prime lamb have encouraged the family to increase the ratio of ewes mated to SAMM rams for prime lamb from 1800 to just over 2000 in 2011.
Peter said he was one of only a handful of dedicated sheep/lamb producers still operating in the Mingenew area, a mixed light/heavy land region traditionally noted for its sheep as well as its grain production.
“We have not had the seasonal disasters experienced in other areas of the State, but we have certainly had some difficult years and our balance of sheep/cropping has paid off, even with the low wool prices of the past two decades.”
He keeps a number of dedicated pasture paddocks on the property, with others going into a cropping rotation, and has introduced perennial rhodes grass and panic this year.
“Some handy summer rains have already produced good results and have also germinated areas of couchgrass on the property. The couch was here when we took over the property and after several attempts to eradicate it, we found it to be useful for summer grazing.”
Kate Mills helps Peter with management of the sheep enterprise and is ‘in charge’ of weighing lambs that go to WAMMCO.
“The cooperative’s daily schedule system suits us and we look forward to the feedback on our lambs after each consignment,” Peter said.
Jack Mills, 14, and daughter Maggie 12, are at boarding school in Geraldton this year while twin sons James and Henry, 9, help out on the farm.
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