Sheep make comeback on Nyabing farm

28 Jul, 2004 10:00 PM
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NYABING farmer Grantley Smith has spent $34,000 on major shearing shed upgrades this year, in contrast to some woolgrowers who have contemplated abandoning the struggling industry.

Mr Smith said a balanced mixed of Merinos and cropping was essential to maintain the farming enterprise.

The 6500ha property is under 2800ha of crop and runs 4700 Merino ewes mated to Woodarrup bloodline Merino rams in September.

During the peak periods, there is up to 12,000 sheep on the property, including wethers.

Mr Smith admitted his faith in wool had been shaken a few times.

But he remained confident in the industry and revamped his shearing shed.

³It¹s something I¹ve wanted to do for quite a while,² he said.

³I still believe, in our area, cropping and sheep fit together so well that you can¹t afford not to have them.

³With mutton prices these days, the wool doesn¹t have to be the main part of your income anymore.²

He said the outlook for wool was reasonably encouraging.

A combination of innovative ideas, adapting old concepts and utilising industry recommendations, combined to form the basis of the new shearing shed.

³I think with all the Worksafe type issues coming into the shearing shed, we¹ve probably improved efficiency and safety of the shed from an operational point-of-view,² he said.

The new-look interior featured a concrete floor, raised board and catching pen grating which has a 20cm (8in) slope to the board.

Gates into the catching pen opened upwards and were weight activated, allowing for quick and easy penning as well as side filling.

³The catching pen filling system is a huge improvement on what used to be there,² Mr Smith said.

³Wool handling is also a lot easier for the roustabouts on a raised board.²

Shearer Glenn Karetschmer said Mr Smith¹s shed was working well and made work for everyone on the team a lot easier.

He said more farmers were recognising the need for improved shed conditions.

Mr Karetschmer was impressed with the sloping grating and how much easier it was on the shearer to drag sheep out of the catching pen.

Woolclasser Nick Powell said the benefits of the shed¹s construction flowed on to a quality controlled wool clip.

³It¹s better organised and a lot easier to keep clean compared to a wooden floor,² he said.

He said occupational health and safety aspects of a raised board were also important.

³If you¹re picking up an 8kg fleece all day it makes a lot of difference,² he said.

Wool bins were also demountable and could be move out of the way depending on what was being shorn on the day.

Mr Smith plans to scale back his cropping program over the next few years as he concentrates more on the sheep.

³We¹re cropping 50pc of the farm and we are running into problems maintaining sheep in good order by cropping that much,² he said.

According to Mr Smith, advanced methods of cropping and increased efficiency when harvesting had led to reduced stubble nutrition.

³The value of our stubble feed is a lot less than what it used to be,² he said.

³The obvious answer is to cut back on the cropping a bit.²

The operation had seen up to 3600ha of cropping on the farm. Next year, Mr Smith plans to reduce his cropping program by 400ha.

He would reassess the status of the wool industry and possibly even cut back on cropping again.

³We can sort of go either way from there,² he said.

³When you¹re pushing 3600ha of crop your sheep are only secondary.

³I want to get back to making the focus more on sheep being the prime objective and then the cropping is secondary.²

Mr Smith believed there was still a profitable future in sheep.

He said in the near future woolgrowers would have to be seen to making an effort towards improving shearing shed systems.

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