White Suffolks at home in Newdegate
The Walker family of Newdegate have been breeding traditional Suffolk rams at their Jusak Stud for more than 20 years, but in 2012 branched into White Suffolks in response to strong demand.
Rochell Walker, who farms with husband Peter and Peter's parents Syd and Judy, said the family had been breeding Suffolks since 1992, and these still had a strong following from long-standing clients.
"But we also had a few potential clients that really liked the look of our sheep but were chasing a white rather than black-faced ram," she said.
"That was the initial driver for diversifying into White Suffolks, however there were also some very good genetics available at the time."
Mrs Walker said in setting up their White Suffolk operation three years ago, the family handpicked the best genetics they could find, all from WA operators.
This included ewes from Banksia Plains in Borden, Sasimwa in York, Ashbourne in Katanning and Brimfield in Kendenup.
The sires were sourced from Iveston in Williams, Ridgetop in Mt Barker and Sasimwa in York.
Mrs Walker said White Suffolks now accounted for about half of their annual ram sales.
Jusak now sells about 50 to 60 of each breed annually, all by private sale, to clients from as far away as Kukerin, Pingrup and Esperance.
The Walkers expect the balance between the Suffolk and White Suffolk to remain the same because some clients prefer the easy-to-distinguish crossbred lamb the Suffolk provides, while others prefer the familiarity provided by the White Suffolk.
Mrs Walker said other than colour, there was not a great difference between the traditional and White Suffolks breeds, and their expertise with the former had helped them with selection of Whites.
"We scan our sheep as lambs, and then again just prior to the Newdegate Field Days when the rams weigh about 100kg," she said.
"Averaged out over the whole mob, there is probably a kilogram difference in weight and one millimetre of muscle difference between the Suffolk and White Suffolk. They are very much an even type of sheep."
In terms of the commercial flock, the family runs about 3500 breeding ewes.
About 1000 are mated to their own Suffolk rams to produce prime lambs, while the remaining 2500 are mated with Keetlen Valley Poll Merinos, also of Newdegate, for the wool operation.
The Walkers' lambing program has just finished, the idea being that they drop over June and July on to green pastures.
Although the season has been drier than usual with only 170mm for 2015, Mrs Walker said there had been just enough green feed this season so far.
"It is a drier year but crops and pastures are hanging in there," she said. "We just need to do the best we can with what is looking to be a marginal year."
The family's cropping program includes 1400ha of wheat, mostly Mace, though they are this year trialling a small amount of Hydra and Harper.
This year 1000ha of barley has been planted, predominantly Bass, but also Hindmarsh, which they bulked up for seed last year.
Mrs Walker said 900ha of GEM and Bonito canola was sown this year, along with 240ha of Williams oats.
They also planted 100ha of lupins for their own feed.
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