Lamb focus optimises farm profitability at Bethungra
1 March 2016
HAVING been on the land all his life, Mal Lloyd Jones has come to learn what works and what doesn’t on his property in Bethungra, New South Wales.
Mal and his wife, Maria, farm more than 1000 hectares near Bethungra in the South West Slopes region, which they dedicate to dryland cropping and running sheep.
Their cropping program comprises wheat, canola and oats, while they also turn-off around 2000 lambs annually.
Mal has been farming and grazing in the region since 1976, and he and Maria have been farming in their current entity since 2007, working hard to build a legacy for their two adult children should they choose to follow suit.
To strengthen the enterprise, Mal and Maria have been trading in breeders; specifically buying in ewes and lambing them down before selling the lambs.
“This was the most profitable option for us at the time – and has continued to be,” Mal said.
“The lamb job is pretty solid and has been good to us.”
Given the style of operation, sheep numbers vary significantly on-farm at any given time, but Mal said they liked to consistently turn-off 2000 lambs each year, which were sold to Woolworths.
He said they mainly purchased Merino ewes which had been joined to terminal sires such as a White Suffolk or Dorset, and were scanned-in-lamb.
According to Mal, they targeted a weight range of 22-24 kilograms with the lambs and this was generally achieved by finishing on grazing wheat, oats and/or lucerne, depending on the season.
“We’re not trying to fatten anything, but we’ll supplementary feed with grain to maintain a strong score two condition until they are put on grazing crops and /or lucerne to finish,” Mal said.
“We weigh everything before we put them onto decent feed, so that’s when we’ll segregate them into mobs according to weight range and turn them off accordingly.”
They prefer to sell the lambs before they cut their hogget teeth and will usually shear them in January prior to selling, which also generates further revenue.
Older ewes are shorn and sold, usually via the Wagga Wagga saleyards.
The average micron can vary quite significantly, but last season they had first cross Merino White Suffolk lambs average 22 micron, along with some composite lamb ewes that were broader at 27 micron.
“Last season was good. We were able to sell our lambs for good money and sold our Merino wool at the end of last year for around 860 cents/kg, which we were very happy with,” Mal said.
“Cropping-wise, it was a reasonable year. Nothing outstanding, but better than we’ve had for a while.”
Mal and Maria market their wool clip through Quality Wool, using local wool representative Rob Leak.
Mal said they had been working with Rob for many years and had been impressed with the level of service he provided.
“We don’t have any set marketing strategy, as we meet the market and have never held back any wool.’’
“Unless the market is completely ridiculous, we’ll sell and we normally make above the reserve.
“Rob understands that and we get excellent service from him. He’s always about when we’re shearing and can pick up the day we finish or the day after.
“He’s very reliable and is available when we need him,’’ Mal said.