Rock-Bank taking advantage of a positive season

Rock-Bank Merinos has positive 12 months

Business Profiles
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It's been a profitable 12 months for Rock-Bank and its clients and they plan to leverage off another positive start to the season.

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GOOD START: Rock-Bank Merino and Poll Merino stud principal John Crawford is taking advantage of a positive start to the season.

GOOD START: Rock-Bank Merino and Poll Merino stud principal John Crawford is taking advantage of a positive start to the season.

BUSINESS PROFILE

Things might look a little different for the Crawford family this year, who are normally familiar faces at some of the biggest sheep shows across the country that have been cancelled because of COVID-19.

But the family, which runs Rock-Bank Merino and Poll Merino stud, won't be any less busy as they take advantage of a positive start to the season heading into their lambing period.

The Victoria Valley, Vic, stud is run by John and Rhonda Crawford, with next generation Sam and Nicole, and they strive to breed big, productive ultrafine and superfine Merinos, and big, productive woolled, meaty, large-framed Poll Merinos.

John Crawford said Rock-Bank and its clients had enjoyed a very profitable 12 months.

"We've been producing high quality wool of good weights and commanding high prices per kilogram, combined with high prices of the surplus sheep they sold due to their large, heavy carcases," Mr Crawford said.

He said his priority was choosing a type of animal that would further the Merino breed and the poll industry.

"My long-term goal is to offer a product which is consistent to type and continually improving," he said.

"Be that in the ultrafine or superfine Merinos, or the fine wool polls and the work in progress fine medium polls, we're putting more emphasis on meat traits and realisable goals of higher lambing percentages."

He said the flock was in very good condition in the lead up to lambing.

"The focus on the farm at the moment now that we've stopped feeding is renovating pastures and moving our ewes into their lambing-down paddocks," he said.

Mr Crawford said the industry had changed a lot in his time, and they had tried to adapt to these changes, while still staying true to their breeding objectives.

"The world doesn't stand still, markets change, people change, but the basics stay the same; it's like breeding a good race horse, if you figure out what works, you can't go wrong," he said.

"Keep it simple and use common sense."

He said given it took many years to see changes in a flock take effect, they often found themselves attempting to predict where the industry would go.

"It takes time, you've got to have a vision, and the time to take it slowly," he said.

To meet this changing demand, one big change they had implemented in recent years is introducing polled genetics.

Mr Crawford and the family are smitten with a ram that's had plenty of success in the show ring and who they believe is one of the best stud sire prospects that's been bred at Rock-Bank.

The ram is a polled ram, affectionately named 'Rafer' after tennis player Rafael Nadal, and he took out Australian supreme Merino ram at Dubbo, NSW, in 2018.

It was Rock-Bank's third national supreme title win but the first with a poll.

Mr Crawford said the moment was special as they had only been evolving their poll stud in recent years.

Rafer was AI-bred, out of a double stud Rock-Bank ewe and sired by Yarrawonga 961.

RAMS: Some of Rock-Bank's rams on the Victoria Valley, Vic, farm.

RAMS: Some of Rock-Bank's rams on the Victoria Valley, Vic, farm.

Lambing is another big focus on the farm.

"We've got high fertility in all of our flock," he said.

"They say join your young ewesonce or twice, and if she's dry, cull her out of the system, but we've been doing that for over 40 years, so that's not new to us."

Providing meaningful and up-to-date figures on their rams for their clients was of top importance.

"Once wool testing and micron came in, we were one of the first studs to test everything, it was a good way to make sure our stock were up to scratch and where we wanted them to be," he said.

"Jump forward 10-15 years, we can see how the figures relate to what we're doing, but sometimes they're wrong; 99 per cent of things you can see in the animal, the figures should just be there to back you up."

The stud will still conduct its annual ram sale in late September, which will consist of 50pc Merinos and 50pc Poll Merinos.

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