Merinos vital part of mix

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

The extra work involved with woolly animals may have turned some young farmers off Merinos, but fourth generation Nungarin mixed farmer Brad O’Meagher wouldn’t kick them off the family’s property for anything.

“There are a lot of young farmers that can’t be bothered with them, but cropping and sheep go hand in hand,” he said.

“This year we have seen some of the highest wool prices that have been seen in a long time, which is great, and we wouldn’t go to meat sheep because the Merino is a hardy breed. They have got fly strike problems, but when the wool prices turn around, as they have done, Merinos pay dividends.”

The family’s program comprises 13,400ha of mixed cropping and running 3500 head of Merinos.

The family produces19–20 micron wool bred using Waranine Park rams from west of Brookton and the average woolcut is four to five kilograms per head.

Being in a marginal area, Brad said the family was different to many other wool producers and used sheep as tool in the total farm business.

“Our sheep aren’t the main focus of the business, whereas in some areas where they can run many more head per hectare, they can focus on just sheep,” he said.

With shearing in a couple of months, Brad said the profits would be worth the time and money spent on the family’s flock.

“Without sheep I think our paddocks would be on a steady decline,” he said.

“And with such a narrow profit margin, especially in marginal farming areas, how can you afford to continuously crop?”

Brad said although last year was a disaster for the family’s crops, it could have been worse.

“We had high grain prices and higher meat prices and with wool prices rising, it certainly eased the load of previous bad years,” he said.

So far this year the family’s property has received 150mm of rain and they have not had to do any supplementary feeding.

Currently in the middle of lambing, Brad said the family was hoping to get 100 per cent but it wasn’t uncommon to get as low as 75 per cent.

“We have had lambing percentages up to 120, but most of the time we get around 80 per cent,” he said.

The O’Meaghers recently took advantage of high sheep prices, selling some stock in November, but plan to keep building their flock in future.

Brad said they kept sheep on the farm for as long as possible.

“This is a tool for getting more profit and to help get paddocks ready for seeding,” he said.

“The next sheep we will sell will be old mutton ewes.

“We keep all the lambs for a while.

“We keep our wethers for three or four years, get them to a mature and live export shipping stage and then sell them to the shippers.

“It gives us a bit more wool to cut.”

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