Drought and hand feeding has been the norm for the region since the start of 2017 and paddock feed remains minimal.
While wool and sheep meat prices remained at high levels, breeders were concerned that in the drier areas many growers had sold surplus sheep.
Pendarra stud principals, Kelvin and Jackie Pendergast displayed their line-up for Sheepvention, Hamilton, ram sale this year. For the first time the team will comprise only Poll Merinos – which had sold well there in the past. Mr Pendergast said that while most people were hand feeding, there were excellent returns at the other end.
Round Hill stud principal Brendan AhSam, said his breeding philosophy was to reduce average micron by taking out the broad end of the flock using coefficient of variability (CV). His aim is for high comfort factor and better spinning types. The stud has recently introduced a Nerstane sire, well known for fine, white wools.
Nicholson River Merino stud, Doug Pemberton, said the use of Anderson sires from Western Australia provided worm resistance, frame and early maturation to enable a faster turnoff of wethers – before winter. The “main game” was wool and meat, he said. He has also used “snow combs” for the first time at shearing to protect fresh shorn sheep in the tough conditions.
Stockton Merino stud, Alan Stewart, Hillside near Bairnsdale, said the stud was conducting scanning for intramuscular fat (IMF) for the first time. Out of 17 young Stockton Merino sires tested, 15 had scanned positive to IMF.
He said the benefits to commercial sheep producers would be in higher prices from processors for wether lambs with intramuscular fat
At The Fringe, Briagalong, stud principal, John Freeman displayed the sire he purchased at Bendigo ram sale in 2017 from the Nerstane stud. He said there were lambs on the ground by the sire which he bought for its “good strong head”, good structure and size and carcase qualities.
Bindawarra Stud principals Steve and Lisa Harrison will this year offer eight rams at North East Merino ram sale, Benalla, in August, up from four offered lat year, and 60 rams at Gippsland Merino ram sale, in Bairnsdale, in September. The higher offering would give more clients a chance to fill their orders. This year the stud had also registered a Poll Merino stud.
Ms Harrison said it had taken time to get the right size and wool quality into the polls and find what worked locally.