Rainy day strategy pays off

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

The Coole family are glad they stored plenty of feed for a rainy day.

The family's 30,000-head sheep farm, Glenerin, in Frankland River, is made up of five different properties and was pelted by more than 100mm of rain during the freak storm that lashed the State last week.

Richard Coole said after running the farm for many years and seeing the highs and lows, he likes to be prepared.

"When you get older and wiser you tend to be less adverse to risk, so that is why I always tend to store more grain on the property from harvest than I perhaps otherwise would require," he said.

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"So now I have plenty of feed and my numerous dams spread over my properties all have water in them."

Mr Coole said he planned to keep his sheep turnoff for the season at about 25 per cent, however the peculiar weather has made the outlook unpredictable.

"In December I turned off about 4500 sheep," he said

"If we get some good follow-up rains it will be really good, but if we get a few hot days in a row the clovers will die.

"If that happens we will be feeding more to the autumn season and then the weather it ends up being a good or bad season will depend on the amount of rainfall we get during the winter this year."

Mr Coole said the rains had given his property good sub soil moisture.

"This means the summer weeds can be sprayed out and the sheep will no longer need vitamin A supplements with the green pastures."

Mr Coole said the high turnoff was because markets were strong.

"Most of my lambs will end up going to the local market, which is paying slightly better than the live exporters at the moment," he said.

"We're getting about $2.25kg locally compared with about $2.15kg to put them on the livex market, but the markets could easily reverse."

Mr Coole said he had more than 1000 tonnes of silage on hand to supplement his feeding program.

"We actually had to start hand feeding the sheep in the December because of the short spring we had," he said.

"We have used a feed regime of lupins for the young sheep and barley, oats and lupins for the pasture sheep."

Department of Agriculture and Food WA have urged sheep producers to check stock and paddock feed conditions following prolonged heavy rain across parts of the South-West and Great Southern.

DAFWA sheep development officer Steve Tunbridge said widespread rains received in southern parts this week had damaged dry feed.

"This follows an early finish to the 2015 season and out of season rainfall in December and earlier this month which have led to low quality and quantity of pasture," he said.

"Sheep producers are reminded to monitor the condition of their sheep now to prevent or reduce loss of condition and assess supplementary feed requirements."

DAFWA veterinary officer Anna Erickson said sheep within two to three weeks off shears were vulnerable to hypothermia.

"Farmers with sheep recently off-shears should give shelter to the most vulnerable such as young sheep in poorer condition and those newly shorn," she said.

"Where possible, relocate animals to a shed or an area with solid shelter and ensure adequate nutrition.

"These classes of sheep are also the ones most urgently in need of feed after bad weather.

"If not moved to shelter, sheep will camp in whatever shelter their paddock does provide during rain events, but they will often stop eating during that period.

"Feeding good quality oats and hay to these sheep for at least a week after the bad weather will increase heat production, and the hay stimulates the rumen to start working."

It is important to assess stock immediately and then every two to three days if the paddocks are bare or have been inundated.

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