Sheep dear to family's heart

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Anthony Dearlove loves running sheep and is a keen advocate for wool, so much so that since November, along with his father Michael, he has agisted most of the family’s 3700 breeding ewes between Arthur River and the Nullarbor.

The aim was to conserve as much feed as possible for lambing in May and June.

“We weren’t prepared to take the gamble on a big summer rain and an early break, because the dams were empty and the place was blowing away in October, ” Anthony said.

The distance from their farm to Arthur River is just a few hours, but to Arubiddy Pastoral Company, just north of the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse, it’s around 890km each way.

“We are trying to hang on to our sheep numbers. Our farm is 100 years old and there is 45 years of Qualerup breeding invested with a sprinkling of Seven Oaks, ” Anthony said.

“We could sell and buy ewes back in but we invest in our rams and if we were going to trade sheep, we’d be better off buying $100 rams.

“I’d rather we try to hang onto our numbers — machinery and cropping don’t interest me — I love wool.”

At Kooringa, the Dearlove farm has recorded 50mm of rain for the growing season — it’s green but bare.

At Arubiddy, where Countryman caught up with Anthony a fortnight ago, it was the opposite. The station has received 300mm of rain since January, meaning there is plenty of feed on offer.

The Dearloves have taken all their ewes home for lambing but came to a crossroad with their maiden ewe lambs.

“We decided to sell the ewe hoggets at the station and keep our cull for age red tag ewes for another breeding, ” Anthony said.

The late drop ewe lambs were sold for $140 per head to Kevin Matthews for Victorian producers.

“We’ve hung onto our sheep for a long time — we’ve ridden out $2.50/kg prices and low wool prices but there is light at the end of the tunnel — and weather permitting, we will be able to capitalise on it.”

Anthony estimates they have spent $100,000 on freight and agistment this year because of seasonal conditions.

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