The promise of a reasonable return from crossbred lambs saved Lake Grace farmer Mike O’Neill from a future dedicated to total cropping back in 2009.
Poor wool returns and the need to manage troublesome Merino hoggets had all but convinced Mike and wife Lesley that there was no place for sheep on their 1,000 hectare property.
However, positive talk about breeding SAMM lambs for a relatively good market, tempted the O’Neills to try some SAMM rams from Ross Taylor’s local “Tiarri” stud over 600 of their Merino ewes and that decision now sees them keeping half the property for cropping and half for a SAMM-based lamb enterprise.
A draft of 136 of their second cross SAMM lambs has just taken off WAMMCO’s November Producer of the month title for the first time, with an average of $105.65 and a top price of $126.05 including skins.
The lambs were selected with the help of Elders livestock specialist in Lake Grace, Graeme Taylor and averaged 23.24 kg with 40.4 percent of bodies in WAMMCO’s premium target range. The lambs have also been entered for the WAMMCO State Lamb competition. Graeme coordinates lambs from the O’Neills with lambs from other local clients to maximise freight to Katanning.
“Our cropping returns so far this outstanding season are our best ever and if the weather permits us to get it all in the bin, will easily eclipse our income from the SAMMS. But we have had more bad years than good ones over the past decade and without the security of the lamb enterprise our ambition to do more caravanning would still be a fair way off,” Mike said this week.
He said he had developed a good working relationship with Tiarri owner Ross Taylor (and he wasn’t a bad deep sea fisherman as well).
“The SAMMS have been relatively easy to run and are good mothers producing well over 100 percent lambings. Their wool is lighter in weight and of lower quality but still shows a handy return.
“We have added some of the second cross SAMM ewe lambs to lift the breeding flock to around 700 ewes this year. They will be mated just before Christmas with some later lambers to give us access to higher prices later in the season.”
Mike’s clover based pastures are manipulated to improve productivity and to suit cropping cycles.
“There has been plenty of green feed this season right up until now and apart from topping up with some barley through lick feeders, little supplementary feeding was necessary.”
The family joined WAMMCO as a shareholder with the change to SAMMS in 2009 and has since increased its shareholding to ensure a share of rebate entitlements.
Mike says new lice and fly technology and other management aids have made sheep ownership easier and he is confident that lamb returns should remain stable.
His son Kelvin farms 12 km away and also runs a mixed Merino/SAMM flock.
“We share our workloads but make our own management decisions in an arrangement that works well for both,” he said.
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