“There’s several things that have happened in the national sheep flock in the last 10 years,” Mr Mills said.
“In the 2000s, there were several severe drought years, some good cropping years, and a few young people got involved in cropping only, so the national ewe flock dropped significantly.
“It made it a lot more competitive for producers to sell rams to a diminishing ewe market.”
He said this is starting to change now as croppers see a need for sheep in their operation.
“Lamb has been so good in the last 15-20 years, so while people might have a Merino side to their operation, they realise that part of their market needs to be involved in producing a first-cross or terminal lamb,” he said.
“Where the Dohne fits into that is you’re still getting that Merino wool clip, still getting a self-replacing flock, and a quality prime lamb that is attracting cross-bred prices, and a micron of about 18-21.”
He said for this reason, it was a no-brainer to start breeding Dohne rams.
“Our sheep operation was mainly a Merino operation, putting Border Leicesters over them, selling the first-cross, and occasionally buying terminal sires, keeping those cross-bred ewes, and selling a second-cross lamb,” he said.
He said the stud was registered in 2000, as a means to supplying rams to the market.
They said clients come from all throughout Victoria, and into Tasmania too.
“The first couple of years we participated in the Riverina Dohne Ram Sale, and the first year was quite a successful sale, we only put in six rams, and averaged about four or five thousand dollars,” Ms Mills said.
“But we’re now up to number 12 this year for on-property sales, and we sell approximately 150-200 rams per year.”
They said clients are returning year-by-year because of continued success.
“Our sheep here have to still be able to cut a fine medium Merino-type fleece, but be able to wean a lamb that can grow out and market at 22-24 kilograms carcase weight,” Mr Mills said.
“Seasonal variations make things easier or more difficult, but we can achieve our target pretty much every time.”
He said Stock & Land Sheep Week will be a good opportunity for producers who might be looking for a change.
“They can come here and see our sheep without any sale pressure, they can ask all the questions they like, and see the sheep in their paddocks, rather than them just in saleyards,” he said.