Merino rams impress in NarroginLong Wool Day shed

Bob GarnantThe West Australian
Yealering commercial sheep producers Brad and Virginia Nicholls.
Camera IconYealering commercial sheep producers Brad and Virginia Nicholls. Credit: Bob Garnant

Merino ram surveyors chasing improved genetics for their stud and commercial flocks were impressed with the quality at last week’s Narrogin Long Wool Day.

Looking over the 32 participating stud display, Yealering farming couple Brad and Virginia Nicholls took time off their busy hand-feeding schedule to go through the ram shed as they decide on their next sire options.

“We breed our own flock rams and introduce improved genetics through carefully selecting a top sire, which is why we attended the inspection day today,” Mr Nicholls said.

The Nicholls run 2400 pure Merino breeders at their Morlup farm and have been hand-feeding since summer because of the dry season.

Mr Nicholls, who also runs a sheep scanning business, said there were big numbers of twins born this season because of the favourable season last year.

“More sheep producers are using the benefits of scanning to better manage multiple births,” he said.

“The improved sheep and wool market is urging producers to lift production through flock management towards increased numbers of lambs marked, which is paying dividends.

“We had over 105 per cent lambing on our two properties this year and are hoping for an improved season with present concerns of summer feed.”

Narembeen commercial sheep producer Joe Hickey.
Camera IconNarembeen commercial sheep producer Joe Hickey. Credit: Countryman

Visiting the shed for the first time, Kendenup farming couple Peter and Pauline Bunker were also studious on where their next genetic improvement would come from.

The Bunkers run 4000 Merino breeding ewes split into half with 2000 towards a self-replacing flock and the balance used as a cross-breeding program using Poll Dorset rams.

“We breed our own flock rams and are looking for sheep with good conformation and wool that is free-growing, long-stapled, white with good nourishment,” Ms Bunker said.

“We are very pleased with the wool market and received our best ever price for our March shorn clip.”

The Bunkers run a busy farming program with a 50/50 crop-livestock enterprise mixed with both sheep and cattle.

Kendenup commercial sheep producers Pauline and Peter Bunker.
Camera IconKendenup commercial sheep producers Pauline and Peter Bunker. Credit: Countryman

Also taking stock at Narrogin, Narembeen sheep producer Joe Hickey, who runs between 4000-4500 Merino ewes with his wife Karen, mother Rhonda and brother Brendan, on their 60/40 cropping-sheep farm.

“We breed our own flock rams through a nucleus flock of up to 300 ewes and select sires that can stand up to harsh conditions — big, plain types that cut plenty of 22 micron wool,” Mr Hickey said.

“After several years of importing South Australia genetics via both live and semen sires, we have been selecting WA sires for the last 15 years.

“Managing our flock against a dry season will be a concern up to our shearing in February, hoping the wool cut will maintain our average of 8.5kg for Merino ewes.

“This season’s ewes scanned 160 per cent conception, and the June drop lambs are plenty, so there are other decisions to make as feed becomes an issue, but we are fixed to hang on to all of our ewes.”

Darijon Merino stud principal Richard Chadwick, of Narrogin, who displayed rams at Narrogin, said the day was well attended.

“We had the most Merinos and Poll Merino rams penned up since the beginning of this event,” he said.

Mr Chadwick has been a participant of the Long Wool Day since its conception and said it had progressed with the times.

“Studs are displaying both long wool and shorter March-shorn rams which is more in-tune with the requirements of producers.”

Narrogin ram breeder Richard Chadwick, of Darijon Merino stud.
Camera IconNarrogin ram breeder Richard Chadwick, of Darijon Merino stud. Credit: Countryman

Also enjoying the magnificence of the Merino, farming children Frank and Sally Bock, under the watchful eye of their mother Esme, were able to get up close to a special Poll Merino ram, Woolkabin Elliot, which was sashed with the supreme ribbon twice so far this year.

Other top sheep in the shed included a grand champion award recipient from the Lewisdale stud and the national pair champions from the St Quentin stud, both studs highly awarded at the recent Sheep and Wool Show at Bendigo.

With ram field days and sales just around the corner, beginning with next week’s inspection days and the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo & Sale, there is plenty of opportunity for producers to gather momentum towards the next breeding season.

Also making an impact will be the 30 Merino studs to be displayed at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days on August 30-31.

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