Hard to leave sheep currently

Hard to leave sheep currently


Sheep
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PETER Hare just can’t help himself.

PETER Hare just can’t help himself.

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Peter Hare, Cohuna (right) inspecting rams before the stud's Best of the Best sale late last month.

Peter Hare, Cohuna (right) inspecting rams before the stud's Best of the Best sale late last month.

After 40 years as a woolgrower at Cohuna on the Murray River, you would think he might be starting to slow down.

It’s not long ago he sold off a 1400-acre block with that in mind. But recently he just couldn’t resist the temptation of heading to Cooma in NSW and a Hazeldean select ram sale “just in case there was a bargain” to be had.

Even he could see the funny side of it after taking such significant steps to start downsizing his workload but a bargain, after all, is a bargain.

Hazeldean principal Jim Litchfield, left, and Cohuna sheep breeder Peter Hare before the stud's Best of the Best sale late last month. Peter brought home three promising young rams.

Hazeldean principal Jim Litchfield, left, and Cohuna sheep breeder Peter Hare before the stud's Best of the Best sale late last month. Peter brought home three promising young rams.

Currently running 1000 ewes (and likely rebuilding) – pure Hazeldean blood – on his remaining 3100 acres, and still doing a bit of cropping, Mr Hare said he started buying Hazeldean rams when he shifted his emphasis from trading wethers to breeding a Merino wool flock.

“My adviser was very big on the Hazeldean sheep so I went straight into their rams and have never seen any need to change,” Mr Hare said. “While I might not be operating in the price range of the select rams – they will be kicking off in the four figures – they will have a second draft of 90 graded rams and some of those might be more in my range.”

Hazeldean principal Jim Litchfield said his select rams have been run in a large contemporary group of young rams and have had two fleece measurements, including full fibre test and fleeceweight at 10 months and again at 17 months.

He said they have also had two classings before each shearing, a yearling body weight and stringent off-shears assessment.

“The average ASBVs across the whole sale team put them in the very high production end of industry figures for fleece weight, fibre diameter and all productive traits,” Mr Litchfield said.

“The average Merino Production (MP) Index of this group of elite rams is 166 per cent, which puts the average of the rams in the top 5 per cent of the Merinobreed,” he said. That’s why Mr Hare knows they will cost a fair bit but why he also knows the benefits of that commitment to genetic progress means the graded rams will have also benefited from the research and breeding.

With his careful ram selection and dedicated breeding program Mr Hare has produced a heavy-cutting flock of 20 micron sheep – his adult ewes producing about 7kg of fleece wool – with his lambs going much finer at 17.5.

Except in the past 12 months when riding the back of an excellent season they blew out to about 18.5 micron, including his 12-month hoggets.

“Every year we have culled the flock hard, always replacing the bottom 5-10 per cent and we have turned this into a pretty mob of sheep,” Mr Hare said. “That the adult ewes were able to retain their micron through a good season is a strong sign they are really breeding to type.

“We have had irrigation to rely on but from 2013 to last year we have had to keep lowering our numbers because of the seasons, down from around 1700 to 1000, but have hung onto the nucleus of our breeders.

“You can feed them fulltime but that really does demand a lot of hours, and a lot of cost, but we haven’t had to worry about that lately, although going through the wether lambs this time round we have noticed a longer tail and I think in the end we had to take out 61 of the 400.” Mr Hare is all natural mating and running around 1 per cent rams had conception rates starting around 80 per cent.

But with his reduced flock he has still had all his rams, including a few younger ones and a few veterans so the current mating was run a bit higher than 2 per cent.

“Now we are looking at conception rates around 100 per cent, which is a pretty good result for a Merino flock.”

Because he runs on mostly dry country, Mr Hare might not have trouble with worms but one of the biggest problems he does face is grass seeds; especially with the lambs and in their eyes. Which forces him to crutch them earlier than he would normally.

That good season in 2016 and carrying into 2017 has also seen him join on November 1, more than a month earlier than usual.

“It helps that we have that 500 acres of irrigation, but our cropping is very much in second place to what we have been doing with the sheep, and right now is a good time to be in wool and sheep,” he said.

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