There has been no loss of interest in prime lambs since Darrel and Diane Hudson of Yleena Farm Dowerin became the first Producers of the Month winners for their area in June 2010 with a draft of 232 Merino/Poll Dorset lambs that were also the first in WA to score more than $5 per kg at the time to return just above $125 per head.
Yleena was WAMMCO’s Producer of the Month for May, 2019 with a draft of 131 SAMM/Dorper lambs that averaged 23.03 kg to return $156.48 per head including skins, with 98.47 percent of the consignment meeting the cooperative’s sweet spot.
Now with his lambs consistently scoring more than $150 per head, and a late, but promising start to the new season, Darrel is in the process of repeating the father-to-son knowledge transfer of farming skills he received from his father Peter, to his own son Peter, who has just left a career as a highly rated wood worker in Perth to return to the farm with his wife Rhiannan and one year old twins.
Peter’s return will give Darrel more time on the sheep enterprise, which is currently changing from SAMM/Dorper to SAMM/Merino, following many years of Merino/Poll Dorset breeding.
The extra pair of hands will also assist Darrell to meet the demands of his new role as President of the Dowerin Shire.
“We have never seen the WA lamb industry so consistently strong, and with the wool market confirming that it is finally in positive mode, we can actually plan ahead with confidence.
“Whereas record recent lamb prices enable producers to make good money, it is also critical for WAMMCO as our key underwriter, to remain viable,” Peter said.
The reintroduction of a Merino component to the sheep enterprise came after Darrell’s decision in July 2017 to sell off 238 SAMM/Dorper ewe lambs after a dry start to the season. These lambs not only won WAMMCO’s Producer of the month title for that month, they averaged $155.91 per head including skins.
“We later took the opportunity to purchase a line of 400 Merino ewes to lift our wool quality and quantity, mating them to Ejanding Merino rams from local stud breeder Brett Jones.”
The Merinos run in tandem with a core SAMM breeding flock of 1,000 ewes with rams sourced from Steve Slaters’ Margan stud at Donnybrook. Dorper genetics – also from Margan – were discontinued in 2018, to be replaced with a trial of Slaters’ Charolais bloodline.
Darrell believes his family has achieved a critical balance with a 50/50 sheep/cropping operation on the 2,720 ha Yleena property.
“Cropping and grazing are well integrated in terms of timing and maximum profit flowing from a combination of later lambing and pregnancy testing, successful erosion and weed control and pasture and fodder crop usage to suit the sensitive sandplain environment.”
“Family farmers up here are concerned by a recent flood of investment in farmland by corporate and retirement investment groups.
“There have been cases not only of the new corporate owners ripping out fences and livestock infrastrure, but also of them banning livestock production under the terms of new ‘cropping only’ lease agreements on offer.
“Having seen the impacts of plantation timber investment and other major adverse changes in farming practice under some forms of corporate management, these practices pose as great if not a greater threat to our livestock industries than vegans and environmentalists.
“Removing livestock from the WA landscape will threaten our processing sector at a time when global demand for livestock products has never been greater."
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