Charollais sheep turn heads

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantThe West Australian

Gingin couple Steve and Liz Slater, of Margam Farm, have introduced the first Charollais sheep into WA.

The young couple will have a display of the French breed at the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo, being held today and tomorrow at the Katanning Sport and Leisure Centre.

They will also be at this year's Newdegate Machinery Field Days.

Mr Slater first set eyes on the Charollais at the 2006 Royal Welsh sheep show and discovered the breed's popularity for its impressive muscle pattern and finishing carcase attributes as well as its ability for easy lambing.

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He caught up with geneticist Ian McDougal at the show, who spoke highly of the Charollais breed, explaining they were one of the highest yielding meat-to-bone sheep in the world.

Mr Slater took notice of the breed's natural muscle pattern, exemplifying length of loin, and the easy-lambing wedge shape of the sheep on display.

"There was plenty of talk of the Charollais' performance, including averaging 500g a day on pasture," he said.

After returning to Australia, the Slaters contacted Roseville Park stud, Dubbo, NSW, to enquire about its Charollais breeding, and WA's first ram purchase was negotia- ted.

"This ram, RP 10, was selected because of its proven performance. The ram's progeny were judged the winning consignment at the 2013 Dubbo hoof and hook competition," Mr Slater said.

Margam Farm also purchased three pregnant ewes and has established an embryo transfer program to fast track their stud.

"Early successes include Charollais cross lambs placing third overall at the WAMMCO International State prime lamb competition, announced in July," Mr Slater said.

"Even more impressive was the lambs were finished only on pasture."

Having bred Prime SAMMS and White Dorpers since 2001, Mr Slater said he was focused on performance breeding as a hedge against rising input costs.

The Slaters have also included an Australian White stud into the breeding program.

"We selected this breed for its higher conversion, faster growth, high percentage of twin lambing and reliable paddock finishing improving non-wool breed income."

The Slaters' selection criteria also centre on lowest worm egg count, which is constantly monitored usinf their own microscope.

"Recent Department of Agriculture findings put a figure of $100/ha loss on production penalty just on an average worm challenge," Mr Slater said.

"Economical integrated systems using knowledge, nutrition and genetics can help stop invisible profit leaks caused by predators, parasites and mineral deficiencies and high nitrates."

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