Mixed farming pays off

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Enduring through the lowest rainfall season in more than 140 years, the Clarke family of Arthur River relied on sound advice and diversification to tackle the big dry.

John and Lyn Clarke, and their son Andrew and his wife, Anna, are hoping their farming strategy pays off in the long run.

Andrew Clarke, president of the Darkan Farm Management Advisory Service, said many farmers had been able to fight off the drought using mixed farming operations.

“Our farm has maintained a sheep, wool and grain income and the three complement each other financially, especially through the tough times,” he said.

Mr Clarke said value-adding stubble grazing was an essential part of the farm’s program.

The Clarkes run 8000 breeding Merino ewes, including 1500 Brookdale stud ewes.

“We are around a 60/40 crop/sheep enterprise, but would like to reverse that when seasonal conditions improve,” Mr Clarke said.

Like many farmers, the Clarkes had to sell off sheep this year to adjust to lower stocking rates, due to poorer pastures.

The family’s shearing shed has been active the past three weeks, and Mr Clarke has estimated that some 300 bales will be ready to market.

“It is great to see wool selling so well, a nice surprise on the back of a trying year,” he said.

“Because of a lack of wool supply, it seems the mills have started buying earlier this season and are paying higher prices.”

The Clarkes produce a bold crimping style of wool off a plain-bodied type of sheep.

“This year, the wool is finer than normal and strength is very good,” Mr Clarke said.

“We are positioned well off a record lambing season and demand for sheep continues to soar.”

Mr Clarke said the future of the Merino looked bright, especially in helping to get the family’s farm through one of the worst droughts in history.

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