WITH the theory that yield is king in the primary production game, Stud Park South (SPS) owners Pat and Sarah Millear focus on breeding a triple win Merino with their fertility, meat and wool productivity.
The Millears are preparing to significantly expand flock numbers in the coming years as their philosophy continues to work with the 5600-hectare Willaura property running 12,000 Merino flock, 6000 self-replacing breeding ewes and 700 stud ewes and is up there with western Victoria's heaviest wool cuts.
"Nothing has changed much in the Merino industry, we still sell meat and wool by the kilo so you need to cut plenty of wool and breed early maturing sheep with good meat attributes that have high fertility; they're non-negotiable traits in a livestock operation," Mr Millear said.
Their acquisition of surrounding land in the past two decades has been timely expansion for the operation to increase their stocking rate as they record improved fertility and wool cuts attributed to an enduring approach to their breeding methods that dates back to the late-1800s when the Millears purchased the famous Wanganella property at Deniliquin, NSW, from the Peppin Brothers.
"We are finding our ewes are very solid with the family history with the Peppin base from our forefathers," Mr Millear said.
"They are such strong genetics that we're never going to lose that type so while we want to tweak it a little, we still need to maintain the attributes of the large frame, ability to reproduce and Merinos that thrive and survive in harsh conditions."
For the past 10 years, the stud has used Langdene and Roseville Park genetics with an infusion of Wallaloo Park into the flock.
With his desire to maintain more than 130 years of the Millears' historical Merino breeding success, Mr Millear said it was something so ingrained in him that it was in his blood.
"I've kept focus by working with older sheep classers in years gone by and they have instilled in me values and attributes of Merino sheep that you never want to lose," he said.
"I've got this voice in the back of my head telling me that size does matter, staple length matters and fertility matters - you don't throw any of those attributes away or jeopardise those traits.
"We've made mistakes in chasing 'sweeter' wools which took our eye off the ball a bit with key attributes like frame and wool cut and noticed a difference but it was only a blip."
In 2000, Pat and Sarah purchased 400 1.5 year-old Merino ewes from the Millear family's Buttabone Stud Park (BSP), Warren, NSW dispersal sale and established Stud Park South, a salute to not only the BSP and Wanganella properties but also Deniliquin Stud Park and Stud Park North, Jerilderie, NSW, which were also early Millear breeding properties.
The Millears shear 12000 Merinos annually and av 6-7kg wool cuts of 20 micron.
About 1000 cast for age ewes are joined to a terminal Poll Dorset for a cash crop opportunity.
Mr Millear avoids running dry sheep on the property or "passengers" and works under the idea of a "two strikes and you're out" policy.
"We're not micron driven but we are finding our micron is decreasing by our careful selection going into our nucleus breeding program as we always select for longer staple, brighter, white softer wools and that is a natural contribution to reducing micron," Mr Millear said.
Their ruthless approach to production has spurred improved fertility at the property that now marks 100pc of ewes in-lamb.
"We are selecting our most productive sheep and we are not carrying any passengers," Mr Millear said.
"We are scanning all our ewes 45 days after the rams are taken out and any dry ewes get tagged for another joining in December or March and if dry again at the next scan are then sold."
Sheep run at nearly 14DSE/ha, which is a 40 per cent jump over the last five years through pasture improvements, good management and a nutritional emphasis.
An increased focus on the cropping operation, has helped get value out of good seasons with more stock to capitalise on a strong market as well as the ability to bridge the winter feed gap with grazing wheat varieties.
Nearly 3300ha of crops are sowed annually and include 2800ha of cereals and oil seed and 500ha of pasture improvements with lucerne summer crops that lambs are weaned onto in December.
"Our cropping goes hand in hand with our sheep operation," he said.
"We are getting more intense with infrastructure, fencing land types and shelter belts to fully utilise the land we have today and it is all feasible when you get a good season like this."
While Mr Millear said it was hard to quantify the impact the pasture renovations had on crop yield or livestock, productivity on the property had greatly increased since they've focused on pasture.
Next year will see Stud Park South sell poll Merino rams from South Australian bloodlines, which Mr Millear said were commercially sought after.
"I can see the polls will be sought after because of their carcase attributes and they're definitely ticking both wool and meat boxes for sure," he said.
While he is optimistic and passionate about the future of the Merino breed and forecasts improved demand from China's wool mills, Mr Millear said producers also need to have confidence in their product to continue the breed's success.
"When you hear positive producers that have a product to match good statistics, it gives you confidence to keep producing," he said.
"We regularly analyse our operation and strive to increase productivity and are fortunate to have such a dedicated team of employees contributing to its success. It is a privilege to be farming today land that has been held by the Millear family for more than 130 years."