Maternal sires in the spotlight

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Maternal sires will be in strong demand this ram selling season as producers aim to lift ewe numbers for the coming year as the seasonal outlook improves and confidence returns.

Twenty-five per cent of WA sheep breeders aim to increase their ewe flock size by retaining replacement ewes, retaining older ewes and by purchasing additional ewes, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI)’s sheepmeat and wool survey.

The top choice among commercial breeders is expected to be Merinos.

Landmark livestock’s Deane Allen said Merino stud breeders had listened to clients’ calls to provide an easy care sheep that matured early and was suitable as fat lambs for abattoirs or for live export.

At the same time, stud breeders have improved the micron of the wool from 23 micron to within the 18 to 21 micron range.

“It’s given commercial breeders more options when considering a Merino, ” Mr Allen said. “They can get a quick maturing lamb, sell wether lambs to butchers, keep ewe lambs as future breeders and at the same time get more cut and value from wool.

“It makes good business sense to look at the Merino.”

Elders stud stock’s Don Morgan said producers wanting a more maternal sire might also consider a Samm, Dohne or Border Leicester.

While maternal sires are expected to sell well this ram season with increased demand, terminal sires may be impacted to some extent.

“You will definitely see a halting of the exodus into terminal sires with people thinking a bit more about Merinos, ” Mr Allen said. “But a lot of people running fat lambs will probably continue to do so and, if they have dual flock, they will probably make sure they keep up their ewe numbers by putting in a few extra Merinos.”

The biggest impact on the shift to Merinos is expected to be seen in the Great Southern.

Elders Mt Barker agent Dean Wallinger said many producers in the area, who traditionally bought in ewes, would continue to do so if it was affordable, rather than try to carry lambs over for a year.

“Buying in ewes will be expensive and it’s still a bit early to say which way producers will go and not many have committed yet, ” Mr Wallinger said.

Kendenup sheep producer Murray Hall will base his decision on whether to cut back on prime lambs to mate more Merinos on these two factors.

“It’s one option I am considering but I will wait and see how the season plays out and watch how sustainable current levels are in the wool market, ” Mr Hall said.

“Our Merino base is still constant and over the last two years has increased slightly and if we reduce the prime lamb side, it will probably be replaced with an age group of Merino wethers for wool production.”

Running F1 Merino Border Leicester ewes, F1 Texel Merinos and prime lambs from Merinos, Mr Hall started pushing his Merino ewe numbers two years ago.

At the time, he said it was obvious the shortage of wool would be realised and supply would be unable to meet demand at some stage.

The MLA and AWI survey also said WA had a weight population of 8.7 million ewes, second to New South Wales where there were 13.5 million ewes.

The WA sheep flock is forecast to fall again next June and stabilise in 2013, before increasing in 2015.

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