Sheep prices helping family stay in the Black

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Quairading producer Steven Black said for the most part he was looking at a slightly above average season so far, but was in need another good rainfall.

That's how he summed up the season to date and he is not alone in wanting another good drop.

Steven and Deanne and their three children Tyler, Lily and Charlie run a mixed cropping and livestock business with Steven's parents Ron and Barb.

This year they have in 380ha of wheat, 135ha lupins, 90ha barley, 25ha oats and 1400ha of grazing country.

Steven said they put this year's crop in after 8mm which fell in May.

"Our last drop was September 4, which was measured at 5mm."

For this season they have had 229mm but if the rain doesn't come soon, Steven expects his contract round-baling business will be in full swing.

"We will be baling oats next week," he said.

Regardless, 2011 for the Black family is a far cry from 2010 which will be long remembered as one of their worst.

"It was the driest season since records started 100 years ago," Steven said.

The saving grace was the family's 1000 head Merino flock and prime lamb production, which although required extra feeding, took advantage of the higher prices for sheep and wool and provided some much needed income.

"Sheep prices are now something to smile about," he said.

"We sold wether hoggets for $115 in August."

With wool prices improving, the Blacks are enthusiastic to get the spring shearing underway next week and into bales and off to the market soon. "We would hope for around 800 cents/kg greasy for the farm's 18 to 19 micron clip," Steven said.

While Merino rams are sourced from Shane Edwards' local Rockridge stud, the maternal sire of choice is the Poll Dorset, with rams sourced from the Squiers family's Shirlee Downs stud also located in the shire.

Steven runs two mobs of sheep, keeping the Merino and cross-bred operation separate.

The family's 135 hectares of lupin stubbles provided the cross bred lambs with enough feed to get through to market and Steven said he was keen to work on the clover feed to improve both sheep and wheat yields.

"Richer clover growth will increase crop yield potential using a two year break cycle," he said.

"Improved pastures will also allow us to increase our sheep numbers slightly."

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