Drought recovery plan

Drought recovery strategy

Wool
Peter Moore and 'Cadbury' with mixed age Merino ewes having just weaned their lambs and now ready to join. Photo: Rachael Webb

Peter Moore and 'Cadbury' with mixed age Merino ewes having just weaned their lambs and now ready to join. Photo: Rachael Webb

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Central tablelands woolgrowers are preserving their Merino flock through a very tough drought.

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Peter and Kaye Moore have not seen a good season for some time, but they know it will rain one day and when it does they wants to be in a position to take advantage of expected good prices for Merino sheep.

The woolgrowers from Blink Bonnie, Tarana are not alone in planning to keep the integrity of their Merino flock intact and at the same time make sufficient income to cover costs and produce a surplus.

Less ewes for the same number of lambs is Mr Moore's aim.

Many landholders are in a similar position to Mr Moore, who has been supplementary feeding his flock silage for many months and has recently introduced the ewes to pellets.

"I'm still coping with this drought," he said.

"At least we have good ground cover but there is not a lot of quality in the dry matter so we keep feeding."

Mr Moore decided if he was to come out of the drought with enough quality ewes to start again he would reduce ewe numbers: but he would maintain production by having an extra lambing from the older ewes.

"This year has been tough enough, and looking forward I was prepared to adjust my ewe numbers early enough," he said.

"They were in good condition and there was plenty of interest in them."

With his supplementary feed costs escalating, Mr Moore said it was not a big question for him to cut his numbers and he is now running forty percent less adult sheep.

"At least we can keep our young sheep and lambs in good condition with this strategy," he said.

"And by having an extra joining, we are still able to keep our numbers turning over."

Running 300 to 400 less ewes while still getting a reasonable number of lambs has reduced the feeding costs on Blink Bonnie.

Having instilled high fertility in his flock over many years of selection, Mr Moore is joining select mobs immediately after their lambs are weaned.

He noted a mob of 504 ewes recently scanned 80 percent in lamb which he considered a good return and not putting a lot of pressure on the ewes; but he cautioned the concept of double joining does have to be carefully considered.

"You have to be flexible, that is the key to success," he said. "Don't lock it into your head you can do it with every mob, but when it does work, there is extra income for not a lot of cost."

For many years, a spring lambing had been traditional on Blink Bonnie; but with the decision to have an extra lambing, it does mean management has to be tighter with the condition of ewes closely monitored. Mr Moore also shears every eight months, and he admitted it does take a bit of organisation to ensure the success of the extra lambing concept.

Selecting ewes for better performance.

That is a key to wool grower Peter Moore's strategy in maintaining the productivity of his Merino flock through a long period of very ordinary seasons.

On the family property Blink Bonnie, Tarana, Mr Moore has been consistently identifying those ewes which hold their condition and get back in lamb and is seeing the benefits of such selection criteria this year.

"Those better ewes obviously standout, and we now have ewes which are six and seven years old and they have had a lamb every year," he said.

"They are the ewes we want, their fertility is proven and they have also shown they are able to hold their condition."

Mr Moore said discussions about joining Merino ewes at seven months was an interesting concept, but he was not looking at going in that direction.

"I think it is better to have wool cut and lambing percentage," he said.

"Here on the Tablelands it can be very tough on young sheep and if you don't give your maiden ewes a chance to grow out before they have their first lamb you risk losing their productive potential as they age."

He noted the benefits when he sold old ewes in July to a top price of $165 a head and grossing over $400 when wool and progeny were considered.

"Those figures justify spending the money to stay in the game," he said.

Mr Moore admitted his drought strategy of re-joining with lambs at foot was unusual and might not be for everyone; but it could be an option for some.

The story Drought recovery plan first appeared on The Land.

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