When David Millsteed of Daybron Farms, Wongan Hills became the first prime lamb producer to win WAMMCO’s upgraded Producer of the Month title in July 2016, his winning line of 464 Merino/White Suffolk lambs was one of the first for some time to come from north of Perth.
WAMMCO’s switch to a new ‘sweet spot’ criteria shifted the judging emphasis to processing and marketing efficiencies from mid-2016, bringing a wider circle of producers into the winners’ circle.
In July 2016, the Millsteed family’s large winning line of lambs averaged 21.28 kg with a return of $116.59 per head.
This time, the title went to a line of 129 lambs prpocessed at Katanning on February 5, that averaged 23.44 kg and returned $173.90 per head under a WAMMCO minimum price contract of $7.40/kg for delivery in January/February.
“The price of lamb continues to be a bonus for those of us fortunate enough to benefit from it,” David said last week.
“We are looking increasingly to WAMMCO and to the food processing and marketing industry to lead government in making sure that the delicate balances between supply and demand for quality products such as lamb, are not damaged by the Corona virus pandemic, or other unforseen global threats.”
For their part, David, wife Robin and sons Bryce (26) and Mason (23) continue to maintain a farming balance of 65 percent cropping of wheat, barley, lupins and hay with a breeding flock of 4,800 Merino ewes, of which 1500 are mated to their own White Suffolk rams. Merino genetics are promoted within the Mocardy Poll Merino stud they established over 15 years ago.
David and son Mason, (who manages the livestock operation) have welcomed their shift to July lambing, because of the reduced need for hand feeding, and the benefits of a later turn-off, to their farming program. They have also embraced pregnancy testing, running smaller flocks and numerous belts of shade trees as upgrades that are also paying dividends.
Dalkeith clover continues to underwrite their pasture base with recent additions of Seredella Margurita, whilst a series of ten, 3-hectare feeding paddocks, carefully developed with special shade strips, keep pressure off their pastures after germination.
“We have found that lambs need plenty of shade to maintain health and growth rates, especially at critical times of the year.”
They are passionate about breeding top quality wool and decided to team their plain-bodied, long wool stapled Merinos ewes with White Suffolks in their crossbreeding program after a number of years of comparing several breeds.
“The White Suffolks *have a more appealing fat content than some of the leaner breeds we were producing a few years ago,” David said. “They are also at the high end of our 95-110 percent average annual lambing and are relatively easy sheep to manage.”
Jeff Brennan of Elders Wongan Hills continues to assist with the breeding and marketing program on Daybron Farms, also assisting with transport for the annual lamb consignments as well as flock replacement.
David said other farmers often commented that he was lucky to have competent sons who were prepared to take over and progress the family farming enterprise. His eldest Bryce is very passionate about cropping innovations and getting the most profit per hectare whilst not damaging soil properties. His youngest son, Mason, is equally as passionate about stock production and the workings of the business side of the farm.
“As I learnt from my father and grandfather – If you do it properly, it’s not hard,” David said.
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