A bumper season, top prices for his Lakeside Poll Dorset flock rams and WAMMCO’s Producer of the Month award for October, were all 2005 bonuses for Brookton producers Wally and Glennis Mills.
The Mills took out WAMMCO’s October award with a contract line of 238 Poll Dorset lambs that averaged 26.29 kg and $84.85 including skin. The consignment was one of several totalling 700 lambs with an average of nearly $80
Wally says the shortage of killing space at peak times of the year is becoming a major concern for producers. He was unable to obtain a booking in August to deliver the balance of his lambs in January, because all of the space had been booked in July.
"One of my first memories of the lamb business back in the 1950’s with my dad was that when the lambs reached a bodyweight of 60 pounds - the fatter the better - off they went to Midland. Now we aim for 50 kg before they go," Wally said this week.
Today he says Lambplan, AI and his new weighing and soon-to-be-installed electronic tagging systems are as integral as good genetics and husbandry to producing lambs with bigger carcases that carry as little fat as possible in the shortest time.
Lakeside recorded one of WA’s best Poll Dorset flock ram price averages for 2005 and Wally has recently negotiated to sell about half of his breeding ewes with the aim of consolidating the stud to concentrate on quality, using the best available breeding aids.
“We use the best technology in our cropping programmes, now the same requirement applies to producing the types of lambs WAMMCO demands for its major buyers in Europe and the US.
“It was relatively easy to turn off lambs at 16 kg, but it is now much harder to get them up to 22 kg plus without losing premiums through fat or price changes,” Wally said.
The property borders the Yeenyenning lakes system and is in a 14 inch rainfall belt, but over recent years has been averaging only around 12 inches.
“With 16 inches this year, it is one of the best seasons I can remember and for the first time ever we cut 100 hectares of surplus pasture into 340 big rolls of hay.”
He says top dressing all of his pastures with 2:1 super potash pays good dividends and he is reseeding about 200 ha per year with Dalkeith clover, leaving these paddocks out of crop for two years.
Glennis and daughter Julie, with help from casual labour manage the annual lambing on Lakeside while Wally and his right hand man Terry Simmons take care of the seeding programme.
Like many farmers last year, the family had a problem finishing their lambs on stubble in time to meet their WAMMCO contracts. With the bumper season this year, overfat animals were the problem and rather than accepting low WA prices for score 4 and 5 lambs, Wally sent a consignment east.
“Our 122 lambs grossed nearly $95 but after freight, commission and other costs, the nett return was about $72 per head,” he said.
He also found last year that shearing lambs to promote growth produced little extra weight and sale of the wool did not cover the shearing cost.
Lakeside has again entered WAMMCO’s state lamb competition this year.
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