Nearly five years spent accumulating and reclaiming valuable farming land at Kojonup from the bluegum plantation industry, is beginning to pay dividends for WAMMCO’s December 2018 Producers of the Month, Griff and Tracey Chomley and their young family.
The POM title was also justification for a decision taken by the Chomleys in 2005 to establish their own “Willow Springs” Border Leicester stud, - and to double their ewe flock to 5,000 over the past five years.
Their winning draft of 111 wether lambs was from Merino ewes purchased from ‘Hyfield,’ sired by their own ‘Willow Springs’ Border Leicester rams and weaned three weeks prior to delivery.
The lambs were processed at Katanning on December 6 and averaged 20.78 kg for a return of $130.92 per head. An impressive 97.3 percent of the lambs met WAMMCO’s ‘sweet spot’ criteria.
The winning draft was smaller and lighter than others previously sent to WAMMCO by the Chomleys late last season following a ‘magnificent’ finish.
“It was our assessment that the Border Leicester was probably underrated in WA, despite its fertility, growth, sale and wool value, and its easy-care attributes,” Griff said. “There was also the danger of diminishing choice for ram buyers of the breed despite continuing popularity in the Eastern States.”
The couple purchased their base of 20 Border Leicester ewes and a ram in 2005 from Horsham breeder Jane Shannon and used embryo transfers for the following two years to build their new stud.
Today Willow Springs produces around 70 rams each year, 40 for in-house commercial breeding, and the remaining 30 for mainly local ram buyers. Apart from the lamb market rewards, the Chomleys have enjoyed good returns from their wool, with just over $11 per kg paid recently for a line of first cross, Merino/Border Leicester wool.
Griff said he had recently returned to Geoff Sandilands’ Billandri Merino stud at Kendenup as a source of rams for his Merino flock.
He says a readiness by himself and wife Tracey to take on projects others may not tackle had typified their entry into farming. He had grown up on the family property at Orchid Valley, and watched the bluegum industry engulf much of the local area.
The couple started by buying a small homestead block and leasing local farmland. In 2014 they began purchasing former bluegum properties as they came up – accepting the significant liability of re-clearing this land to return it to farming.
The couple is concerned that despite ongoing upheaval in the private plantation business, that corporate owners remain and continue to plant trees – more recently pines in areas of prime farmland.
Like many other farmers, Griff and Tracey support the need for a formal review of future land use in areas of prime farmland because of the rising value of WA’s grain, lamb and wool production versus the questionable returns and ongoing liabilities of plantation forestry. They believe worsening predictions for global lamb supply alone, point to a pressing need to rationalise in favour of more viable production from our prime rainfall/farming country.
The noticeable large line-up of farmer-owned firefighting vehicles on the Chomley and other operating farms in the West Kojonup area confirms another of the more obvious hazards of nearby tree plantations.
The optimistic outlook held for farming – particularly for lamb and wool – by Griff and Tracey Chomley is shared by their family Jackson (19) James (17) and Annie (13).
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