Merino ewes retain pride of place at Joe and Louie Hughes’ “Ulinga “ property at Jerdacuttup despite an increasing emphasis on cropping and a dominant prime lamb production program that won WAMMCO’s June Producer of the Month title.
“We are down from a peak number of ewes in the late 1980’s to a current all-Merino ewe flock of 3,000,” Louie said last week. “About two thirds of these ewes are mated to Suffolk and White Suffolk, Poll Dorset and Texel sires, and we use our own Ulinga Merino rams over the rest.”
Joe Hughes has been a long term breeder of sheep and Louie believes some farmers will return to sheepbreeding if prices remain high, because of the extra security they offer over cropping.
He says the dividend in using Merino mothers for crossbreeding prime lambs is in the $30 dollar-plus wool yield they contribute.
“Ulinga” took out their first title as WAMMCO’s June 2009 Producer of the Month with a line of 176 mainly Suffolk cross lambs that averaged 22.54 kilograms for a return per head of $110.70 at a daily schedule price of $4.83.
Thirty three, or 18.8 percent of the line achieved a WAMMCO Select average of 6.1 percent to add a bonus payment of $186.26.
110 of the lambs attracted the premium $5 per kg price on the day with 50 of these lambs returning between $120 and $140 per head.
Louie said he relied on Landmark Esperance adviser Neil Brindley for marketing advice but normally sold heavy lambs to WAMMCO with lighter lambs going to the local trade.
“We have used WAMMCO contracts in the past but it wasn’t possible this year”, he said.
Normal practice is to start dropping cross bred lambs in April to produce suckers, but a dry start last season changed that and these lambs went on to stubbles with paddock feeders and did not go to WAMMCO until after harvest when they returned around $100 per head.
His aim is to devote more attention to increasing twinning percentages within the “Ulinga” flock. He said the WAMMCO award and the WAMMCO Select payment were surprise bonuses for his lamb enterprise.
“Add to this the annual trading rebate from WAMMCO, and the processing feedback we receive from Katanning, and the incentives begin to mount,” Louie said.
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