ARCHDALE producers, the McClelland family, have increased the size of their self-replacing Merino flock to take advantage of the recent lift in wool and lamb prices.
There is nearly as much money in sheep as there is in cropping at the moment and the risk is a lot less, Stuart McClelland said,
“As a result we have increased our ewe numbers and instead of selling our wether lambs we have kept them on this year, running on stubble over the summer and then we’ll shear them in March and June,” Mr Mc Clelland said.
Mr McClelland, his wife Kate and sons Dylan, Ryan and Josh, run a 1600-hectare mixed farming operation, “Hornehill”, cropping 1200ha of wheat, canola, oats, barley and lupins along with two self-replacing flocks of 850 Merino ewes and 700 first-cross ewes. They also lease a further 700ha.
The McClellands have been sourcing their Merino rams from the Kerrilyn stud, Dunluce, for more than 15 years, selecting heavy-cutting, big-framed sires.
Kerrilyn Merinos will be one of 15 studs on display at the upcoming Loddon Valley District Stud Merinos Field Day on Friday, March 2.
“I am an ex-shearer from years ago and I just want to produce quality ewes with heavy cutting 22- to 23-micron fleeces, our ewes average around 7 kilograms to 8kg of wool per head and I don’t think I can get much better than that,” Mr McClelland said.
“I also like good-framed sheep as this gives more resale value when the ewes are sold as older stock.”
The breeding program is split into two joinings during the year with 300 Merino ewes mated to Merino rams to lamb in April, along with 300 cull Merino ewes joined to Border Leicester rams. A further 250 Merino ewes joined to Merino rams and 700 first-cross ewes joined to Poll Dorset rams also lamb in August.
“This allows us to better utilise our rams twice a year, spreading our risk, and for ease of management during lambing,” Mr McClelland said.
All ewes are pregnancy tested with ewes carrying twin lambs identified and run in mobs of less than 100 in the lead-up to lambing. Ewes carrying singles are run as one big mob.
“There is no doubt our lambing percentages have improved and are now between 130 and 150 per cent for the Merino ewes as we are able to better manage the twinners in small mobs.”
The joining times for the young ewes will be swapped so the maiden ewes spring lambs will move to an autumn lambing and the autumn lambers shift to spring to maintain ewe quality.
Shearing takes place in March and June to ensure all ewes are shorn within two months of shearing which Mr McClelland believes significantly benefits the ewes during lambing.
A testament to the sheep’s productivity, the McClelland family had the heaviest cutting team at the Ovens Valley Wether Trial during 2014 to 2016. The family hopes to maintain the flock size and sow lucerne in some paddocks to provide valuable green feed during summer for weaned lambs and ewes.