Sheep versus cattle is not a problem for Golden Hill farmer

30 Jul, 2003 10:00 PM

THE sheep versus cattle equation is no longer a problem for a Golden Hill farmer.

Don Nekel farms 260ha of high rainfall, perennial pasture country northwest of Denmark.

He took up his block in 1964 as a woolgrower.

The Nekel family, of which he was one of four brothers, marketed their wool under the Seaview brand at the regular Albany wool sales.

Their wool was praised for its handle and was consistently priced among the market leaders - 130 bales of it.

Golden Hill was listed in the "blue wool" country.

"My lambs sold early this year averaged $76 a head," Don said.

"The prime lamb market has never been so strong in my experience, but that doesn't mean I'm going to increase the number of the few ewes I run here.

"I've always had cattle, they don't require the labour input sheep do and I'm hitting 60 years of age."

Age doesn't worry Don Nekel. He looks fit and is fit.

What balances the equation in favour of cattle is the fear of footrot infecting a large sheep flock.

He's experienced footrot and that experience is one no sheepfarmer forgets.

His small flock is footrot free and Don intends it will stay that way.

The farm is stocked with 540 head of cattle, including calves.

He has 210 breeders, largely with calves at foot.

Making every square metre of pasture pay its way is how Don counters the advantages to be gained from high prime lamb prices.

These numbers include a herd of straight bred Limousin cows he breeds himself. The remaining cows are mostly bought in.

"Apart from the Limousin herd, I favour buying in eight to 15 month old Angus-Friesian cross heifers as herd replacements," Don said.

"I have done all right with Shorthorn and Angus in the past.

"I turned to using Limousin bulls when I heard the price a neighbour's Limousin calves made.

"He received up to $60 a head more than my weaners had sold for."

Don has about 50 weaner cattle agisted on another block.

Vealers are sold from December through to the end of January.

"I've had no problem from putting Limousin bulls across my 15 month old heifer calves," Don said.

"After all, the modern Angus, usually favoured for mating the heifers, is a huge animal compared to what it used to be. Some weigh a tonne or more."

Don has used bulls from Kevin Beal's Shannalea stud, Albany, John Tomlinson's Palmdale stud, Manypeaks and CR Dimasi's Goodwood stud, Donnybrook, to build the Limousin herd.

The bull is currently running with the Limousin herd.

He is a four-year-old bull originally bought for $4800 at the 14th annual Limousin bull sale in March 2001 at Boyanup.

"I don't go for the tall bulls so the Dimasi bull fits my choice of bull," Don said.

"He's a great worker. I have a Class round baler for making about 300 rolls of hay and 600 of silage for the cattle.

"I work the country with a Agrowplow and try to renovate the pasture every six to eight years.

"A rock roller is required machinery."

Renovation includes resowing with a mix of Victorian Perennial Ryegrass, balamsa, Haifa white clover and subclovers, sown through a Shearer cultitrash combine.

Summit super potash fertiliser with copper is applied at a bag/acre rate - and cobalt is spread with it occasionally.

"I've about 25ha not arable which makes the stocking rate fairly high," Don said.

"There's creek water fresh and permanent in every paddock.

"A sowing of 16ha of Carrolup oats isn't doing very well.

"But the climate is great, so I can just sit and look at the view out to sea if things aren't doing so good."



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