Winners of WAMMCO’s Producer of the Month titles have become a diversified bunch since the Co-operative simplified its judging criteria and included minimum drafts of 100 lambs delivered by members each month.
Merino ewes have resurfaced in the commercial breeding mix of winning drafts with sires like White Suffolks and Dorpers coming to the fore in many areas of the State.
Borden farming brothers Brendan and Duane Barrows and their semi-retired father Brian and their families were surprised recipients of the August 2017 Producer of the month award with a line of 374 lambs processed at Katanning on August 6.
Despite February storms that flooded the Warperup river on their property, then the disjointed season, their big line of Merino/White Suffolk cross lambs weighed an average of 22.27 kg to return $147.85 per head including skins. A creditable 96.52 percent of these lambs hit WAMMCO’s preferred marketing category.
At about the same time, the Barrows family finished eighth out of the top ten largest Merino lamb contributors to WAMMCO in the first annual Producer of the Year competition, announced in Katanning. Their contribution of 940 Merino lambs had included 76.77 percent of lambs in the top category.
Brendon said his grandfather Wilfred Barrows brought his knowledge of sheep to Borden when he moved from the Ballidu area to take up a 900 ha. soldier settlement block in 1949.
He remembers his father Brian clearing additional property at Borden in the late 1970’s and was several years into a successful football career with Claremont and West Perth in the city when he and his brother Duane got the call from their father: “The farm next door is up for sale, why don’t we buy it?”
Brendon and Duane at that point had been in the city for some time – Brendon with his football and retail sports interests and Duane as a valued member of the highly innovative Harvestaire farm products manufacturing group.
Adapting quickly to farm life at Borden, the family territory steadily increased to the current holding of just over 7,000 ha., supporting a major cropping operation and successful Merino, White Suffolk lamb/wool investment and Black Angus beef cattle enterprises.
A policy of investing in the best available Merino and White Suffolk genetics, guided by local classer, John Banks has seen them listed amongst the top purchasers of Richard House’s ‘Barloo’ and Jamie Hardie’s ‘Wallinar’ Merino Studs at Gnowangerup and Ross and Nathan Ditchburn’s White Suffolk stud at Kukerin, following on from Greg Hyde’s Kohat White Suffolk stud at Ongerup and the former Banksia Plains local stud of Trevor and Marilyn Stone.
Brendon said “Wallinar” genetics were still used to avoid dryness and increase yield in the wool clip, in conjunction with “Barloo” genetics to add frame to the breeding flock.
The dividends were now returning in the form of high prices for quality, abundant fleeces, and premium prime lambs from the Merino/White Suffolk flock.
“We are breeding about 1,200 prime lambs a year from older and cull Merino ewes, and Brian assists with breeding our own White Suffolk rams for the purpose.”
“Prime lambs fit well with our cropping and cattle enterprises and with the help of WAMMCO’s Peter Krupa, we have managed to capture this season’s $6 per kilo plus lamb returns with the bonus of another welcome WAMMCO rebate. We are not looking to expand the lamb flock at this point, but we are constantly looking for ways to improve technology and to increase efficiency and returns.
“The crossbred flock lambing currently averages around 102 percent, matched with a 90 percent average for the Merinos. Brian is looking at pregnancy testing and other measures to improve on this.”
The Barrows family has been synonymous with Borden for many years now. Brendan and his wife Melinda have two young children Ruby and Boston, while Duane and his wife Pip have children Hayley, Taj and Kai. Parents Doreen and Brian continue to pitch in when required. Daughter/sister, Sandy Smallwood is a mainstay of the Borden general store.
A brush with prostate cancer at the age of 42 saw Brendon out fundraising for the charity in 2013. He raised more than $11,000 locally including the auction of some boxing gloves from his friend Danny Green. He continues to raise awareness for the cause.
Brian said he was proud of the family unit and its achievements.
“Time – or lack of it – is probably the worst enemy of the family farmer, followed by the cost and availability of labour, particularly when it comes to running livestock,” he said. “I would like to see us feedlotting more lambs if more time becomes available.”
The Barrows family is also keen to see the Borden football team competing again in the local Ongerup league next year, following a shortage of players this year.
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