Braeside team rolls with punches in uncertain season

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian
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Shearer David Ramm, of Narrogin, is on his way to shearing 200 Braeside sheep.
Camera IconShearer David Ramm, of Narrogin, is on his way to shearing 200 Braeside sheep. Credit: Bob Garnant

At the annual July shearing of wethers and hoggets, Braeside mixed cropping and Merino sheep farmer Don Thomson contemplated what the current season would bring.

“Lack of rain has put our crops and pasture 70 per cent behind in growth, it all now depends on what happens in the next three months,” he said.

“We are rolling with the punches after a promising early break in the season has led to a situation where our financial risk is now looking at further destocking of the flock.

“At Tincurrin, the abundant early January/February rain was followed by only 1.5mm from February 23 to May 19 on which we received 30mm and then it was five weeks until June 25 on which we received another 35mm.

“We lost much of pasture germination and have been handfeeding sheep throughout this time doing over 100km every two days.

“This has meant we had to buy in 100 tonne of lupins and 50 tonne of pellets.

“There are plenty of oats on hand and we are managing to keep the sheep in good nick.”

Mr Thomson runs a 4800 self-replacing ewe flock, 930 wethers, 120 ram hoggets and 80 rams with his daughter Gerri Hinkley and farm managers Bill and Mel Martin.

“The key to running a successful farm is to have the right balance of crop and livestock and we are running our sheep on a high 9-10 DSE, averaging 96 per cent lambing and cutting a lot of wool,” he said.

“Our two-year-old wethers cut up to 9.5kg for 111/2 months growth while ewe hoggets cut 5kg for 91/2 months growth.

“At one stage we were 65 per cent cropping but we have brought this back to 55 per cent with the balance in sheep, with an annual 320 bale wool clip representing two-thirds of our income.

Mr Thomson takes up the challenge of breeding flock rams from a selection of Collinsville type sires, including bloodlines from East Mundalla, Kingussie and Kolindale.

“I select for type, however they must be able to eat and walk first, otherwise the figures are no good,” he said.

“I am pleased with sheep and wool prices with some of our better 2016-drop lambs (143) selling for $155 a head to a local abattoir and another 800 sold for $125 a head to exporters.

“The 2017-drop lambs are being weaned next week and a decision will be made to lighten the load and we will sell 1100 maiden ewes at the October Wickepin sale.”

The Braeside team also has a cropping program on 1380ha of wheat and oats plus they produce 100ha of three different varieties of sub clover for the seed market.

Meanwhile, in the Thomsons’ four-stand shearing shed last week, freshly shorn wool was proving very sound. Wool classer Narelle Millett said the July harvest was well nourished, bright and soft with a lovely handle, ideal length and very sound.

Australian Wool Innovation wool handler trainer Kay Bowden, who was overseeing a few trainees, said two new faces at Braeside were showing promise and accomplished heaps.

“We need more people to take up wool-handling training,” she said.

Trainee Nova Garnier was on her second day.

“I like the physical work and the people are great,” she said.

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