Two of WAMMCO’s biggest and most consistent suppliers of prime lamb, Peter and Stephen Schmedje of Gibson have won the Cooperative’s Producer of the Month title for May.
Over 14 years, the Schmedje brothers have perfected an annual program of sourcing wheatbelt/Great Southern crossbred store lambs in October/November and using pasture, stubbles, with a lupin/barley mix in the paddock to prepare them for delivery to WAMMCO at around 55 kg liveweight.
They were approached by WAMMCO several years ago to assist in developing a volume supply for the lucrative US market for heavier lambs.
This year’s delivery to Katanning will total more than 7,000 lambs, and last week, there were still about 1800 lambs being prepared on the Gibson property for delivery by early July.
Their winning consignment of 693 lambs was killed at Katanning on May 3. The average weight for all lambs was 24.92 kg per head and return per carcase, including $6.65 for the skin, averaged $85.69.
“When you are bringing in 20 different lines of store lambs with a mish-mash of breeding, it is feeding and management – not genetics – that determine if you can reach the premium weights,” Peter said.
“We always aim to buy the heavier, best condition stores because even though they may cost more, there is less stress for us in finishing them.
“Whereas we are not focussed too much on genetics, we have confirmed that second cross lambs are better performers than the first cross Merino/British Breed, and that whereas they are slow to start, SAMM cross lambs also perform well.”
Peter said the annual lamb operation was governed by constantly tightening margins and changing seasonal and market conditions.
“We are unlikely to see the $4 plus per kg WAMMCO paid a few years ago, and matching our purchase prices with the likely WAMMCO schedules, freight, feed and other cost factors can be an extremely fine balancing act.
“Dry seasons make budgetting more difficult for everyone in the industry, and even with two good seasons in Esperance, we are governed by the impacts of drought in other areas. Some people regard droughts as creating opportunity, but they also produce many inferior sheep that become a problem for everyone.”
Taking delivery of store lambs in October/November enables the brothers to bulk up a good bank of pasture, and to ad lib feed the lambs from pasture, onto stubbles with a supplementary ration of lupins and barley via self feeders.
They have found the system results in fewer deaths with less work and better results than running a feedlot.
Running mobs of around 500 and constantly drafting out the bigger sheep, helps to minimise the teeth emergence problem.
They prefer the WAMMCO weight and grade schedules to contracts to achieve greater operational flexibility, and have accumulated plenty of participation units to cover their large annual turnoff. Local transporter Cranes is used to truck big drafts of store lambs in, and the finished lambs to Katanning, at a unit cost of around $4.
The Schmedje brothers moved from Wagga to Esperance in 1987 to a 3000 hectare property at Gibson and continued to breed prime lambs for several years before adopting their store lamb program.
“Our business with WAMMCO has developed on close working ties with WAMMCO buyers Brian Norsworthy and Peter Krupa and Fiona Clay, the livestock booking officer at Katanning,” Peter said.
“We are proud of our reputation for delivering our lambs on time, every time.”
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