Lambs finish on failed crops

Lamb finishing switch on track


Failed canola crops prompted a quick shift to finishing bought-in lambs for this producer.


Achieving a good outcome out of a poor situation was the aim of a change in strategy for Charlie and Jennifer Dean, Langi Kal Kal and Eurambeen near Beaufort, and farm manager Brett Dickson.

It took some quick thinking to find a new strategy when canola crops were deemed not suitable to be harvested.

Mr Dickson said they decided to "change a negative into a positive" by utilising the green forage that was produced to finish lambs from their first-cross ewe flock as well as buying in store lambs.

The revised plan saw the purchase of nearly 7500 lambs to use the fodder - along with about 5500-6000 home-bred lambs.

Encompassing 3440 hectares over two locations, the property carries around 4000 first-cross ewes and grows about 2400ha of crops.

Mr Dickson said the strategy for the purchased lambs was to buy quickly and in bulk. After a buying trip to Bendigo only realised around 300 suitable lambs, they turned to AuctionsPlus.

In two weeks they had purchased a further 2800 store lambs on AuctionsPlus.

In consecutive weeks they bought at Central Victoria Livestock Exchange at Ballarat to reach a total of about 7500 bought-in lambs.

The buying program started in September and was completed by mid October.

He said the average weight of the lambs bought over AuctionsPlus was around 17 kilograms carcase weight while those bought through the saleyards were around 20kg carcase weight.

"We didn't want anything too light that would take too long to reach our target weights," Mr Dickson said.

The bought-in lambs cost an average of $150 a head. The bought-in lambs added to the more than 5500 lambs bred from the property's flock to bring the total to about 13,000.

The lambs were shorn in two sheds across three weeks in November.

Mr Dickson said shearing contractor at Eurambeen, Tex Mortlock, "runs a good crew - no fuss".

"They have done a really good job," he said.

"It's important the shearers do the lambs well as a set up to marketing."

He said the lambs would be ready to market around January-February next year.

"We'll wait to see what contracts come up and lock some in. The aim is to get lambs to 30kg. We're aiming for about $50 a head," he said.

As well as the failed canola crop the lambs would also graze dryland sorgham and irrigated lucerne and forage canola growing under centre-pivot irrigators. He said a further 400ha would be sown to dryland rape crop

Mr Dickson said that in the future the ewe flock would be increased as the area to crop was reduced.

The aim was to increase ewe numbers to around 10,000 to 12,000 in the next couple of years.


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