Shearing schedule change a kind cut

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Sheep will always be integral part of the cropping enterprise for Carnamah farmer Bruce White.

The recent changes to the shearing and lambing calendar has allowed Bruce greater productivity for his sheep and cropping programs.

“We had two-thirds of our average rainfall last year and I dropped 400 ewes,” he said.

“This year, we will increase the flock to about 2000 ewes by retaining more of our ewe lambs.”

Bruce sheared 3700 Merinos (including hoggets) in mid March, after altering his shearing schedule three years ago.

“It was getting too hard to manage the sheep, so we changed shearing from July to March,” he said.

“In July, we were shearing when the ewes had lambs at foot.”

Bruce said the new shearing schedule had resulted in higher lambing rates. Last year, his ewes achieved a lambing percentage of 98 per cent.

Bruce crops about three-quarters of his land.

“Another advantage of late lambing is you can use the ewes to manage weeds,” he said.

Bruce said the sheep market provided an incentive for him to expand his flock, but it was not the sole factor.

“Sheep fit into our rotation well but market forces will dictate whether farmers stay in sheep,” he said.

Bruce said if he could maintain $100 a head for lambs and $1000 a bale for wool, sheep would be a long-term profitable enterprise.

“It would be great to get $120 to $150 a head for lambs, but I don’t think the market can sustain that,” he said.

Bruce has received up to 50mm of summer rain on his farm since December.

He plans to gradually increase his flock to about 2500 breeding ewes.

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