Mark’s feeding plan pays off

Kate MatthewsCountryman

When Mark Garard was encouraged to enter WAMMCO’s State Carcase Competition, he did not think much of his chances.

His line of 162 Merino-cross-Samm lambs had been grazing a weedy ryegrass paddock in Pingaring during one of the driest years on record.

So it was a big surprise when he came sixth out of 123 consignments entered by 82 prime lamb producers.

When Mark originally sent the line of ewe lambs to WAMMCO, it was to get rid of a line of sheep.

His consignment recorded 25.6kg carcase weight with a fat score of 2.51. The winning line, owned by Sheldon Kowald, recorded 26.67kg carcase weight and 2.90 fat.

Genetics from Sunny View Poll Merinos and local Samm stud Uralla have played a part in the success of Mark’s line, but the feed component has also been important.

“The sheep were agisted on a property where they weren’t competing with cropping,” Mark said.

“When you’re cropping, you have to manage feeding the sheep and killing the weed before it sets seed. Without cropping, we were able to let weeds grow a bit taller and help the root mass recover after grazing — we were able to feed sheep for longer.”

Last April when many producers were destocking due to dry conditions, Mark was able purchase five mobs of pregnant ewes to run on agisted and leased country.

It was a decision that paid off well, with most ewes carrying nine to 12 months of wool and a lamb.

“We achieved our highest lambing percentage by sheep that we brought in. The lowest was 98 per cent and the highest 123 per cent.”

Prior to that, Mark said he was marking 85 per cent lambs.

Mark attributed most of his sheep management systems to those put in place by his father, Syd.

Lambing starts the first of April and shearing in July.

“In the first few weeks of a lamb’s life, if you’ve looked after the mother and they have an abundant supply of milk, having green feed isn’t such a large issue,” Mark said. “If we are going to keep farming in this climate, then we have to stop thinking about green feed.”

Mark said his father gave him a good grounding in farming, and he plans to pass those lessons on to his son, Lewis.

At five years old, Lewis has already shown a keen interest in farming.

Mark has also brought some of his own ideas to the farm.

Originally a closed flock, he now trades in sheep and believes there is the potential for great returns.

He also invested in a new shearing shed five years ago.

“At the time, it seemed a bit strange to others, but it’s a shearing shed and has a multi-purpose area with a cement pad for building Eze Feeders. It also has room for machinery.”

Mark started using Eze Feeders two years ago and has been building them since.

“It makes management much easier — you get more control over nutrition and have a content animal that will lamb more. There are also fewer mortalities, because they aren’t chasing sheep feeders around,” he said.

“Our lambs on the ground now will be introduced to lick feeders from their mums and they will learn how to use them, which should, in turn, shorten how long we need to carry them for.

“We have been focusing on our sheep enterprise in the past few years to realise some of the rewards of the improving meat and wool industries.

“They have changed significantly and demand a high-quality product for local and overseas markets.”

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