Peter and Lee Bessell-Browne of ‘Naballing,’ Woodanilling were thrilled to take out the WAMMCO Producer of the Month title for March 2019 with a draft of 109 Merino/Prime SAMM lambs that averaged 23.42 kg to return $152.78 per head. A high, 98.16 percent of the draft hit WAMMCO’s ‘sweet spot.’
The Bessell-Browne family first claimed the POM title, almost to the day five years ago in March 2012, with a draft of 110 SAMM lambs averaging $113.36.
Peter incorporated prime lamb production into the farm business in response to low wool prices during the late 1990’s. Since then prime lambs have played an increasing role offering regular income throughout the year. Their farm’s close promximity to WAMMCO Katanning, enabled Peter to regularly deliver small loads of heavy lambs.
“We are fortunate to not have too far to travel to deliver and the prices offered by WAMMCO , along with the annual rebates, are preferrable to the former Select premium and other incentives used to boost producer returns several years ago. We are now being paid on the basis of quality of the lambs we deliver, before a rebate, which last year was around $10 per head,” Peter explained.
The prime lamb component of their business is based on feedlotting with self feeders dispensing lupins, oats and hay produced on the property.
“We run them into the feedlots in groups of around 600 at a liveweight of 35 kg or more. Some are suckers starting in November, others we start on stubbles and trail feed, then run them in when they hit the liveweight target. We frequently review our feedlotting system because it is not something you can set and forget. Adjustments are made according to grain price and seasonal conditions. We are always tweaking the system to make sure it stays efficient. There’s no point spending $35 per lamb feeding grain to make only an extra $30,” Lee said.
After a stint at Muresk and several years of shearing, Lee has brought to the family farm an accumulation of knowledge on sheep breeding, the wool industry, and various management techniques.
“Working as a shearer gave me a first hand insight to the way other people manage their livestock. I’ve never been afraid to ask questions and learn from anyone I see doing a great job. In that respect I think my shearing years have been some of the most valuable to me – getting to learn from sheep farmers all around the region,” Lee said.
The Bessell-Browne family is now looking to increase their sheep numbers and to adjust their livestock breeding policy to meet future market trends. They have been buying in large-framed Merino ewes with a good history of lambing as well as quality wool production.
“The stronger wool market and higher values for older Merino ewes, have rewarded our decision to make a shift away from Prime SAMMS back to Merinos, using Billandri breeding stock,” Peter added.
They regard WAMMCO’s decision to invest in a separate mutton processing facility at Katanning as an important underwriting for the sheep industry, with live exports under ongoing threat.
Lee said last year’s late break was extremely tough on livestock, however despite the challenging conditions, their Merino lambing percentage was still in the mid-90’s and their Prime SAMM flock lambing percentage remained above 115.
Recent March rainfall has sparked welcome early pasture growth – and hope for a good start to the new season.
Pingelly producer Bruce Sewell and Michael Lucchesi of Kulin continued to score top points in WAMMCO’s monthly contest for March.
Bruce came in second with 98.08 percent of 312 lambs averaging 22.57 kg in the ‘sweet spot’ with Michael a close third on 98.02 percent of his 101 lamb draft in the premium category. His lambs averaged 22.58 kg.
A section of the recent article in Farm Weekly on WAMMCO’s February Producers of the Month Wally and Glennis Mills referred to the early family use of South Suffolk genetics some years ago to produce smaller lambs to avoid lambing problems particularly with maiden ewes.
“The past practices I referred to have long since been superseded, as we have moved forward with the evolution of Poll Dorset genetics,” Wally said this week.
The Mills family were actively involved through their Lakeside Stud in the early breeding development of the Poll Dorset breed to reduce shoulder size in lambs – a major cause of ‘stuck lambs’ at birth, and a remedial trait now common to the Poll Dorset breed.
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