Sheep shine in Koorda business

29 Jun, 2014 02:00 AM
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Koorda farmer Reece Boyne said Dohne sheep were well-suited to their dry climate, enabling them to produce well-rounded lambs that had the added bonus of a wool fleece.
At this point in time, the majority of farmers in this area need both sheep and cropping in the mix
Koorda farmer Reece Boyne said Dohne sheep were well-suited to their dry climate, enabling them to produce well-rounded lambs that had the added bonus of a wool fleece.

IN an area where seasons have been reliably unpredictable over the past decade, the Boyne family have recognised a genuine need for sheep in their business.

They don't want to rely on just one income stream, particularly when there's three families involved and affected by the decision-making.

Peter Boyne farms with his brother Richard and wife Fran at their combined 10,000 hectare Koorda property, with Richard and Fran's son Reece and his wife Gina also in the mix.

Three Boyne brains were better than one when it came to running the family business and as Reece was the youngest farmer of the three, he is still keen to maintain sheep numbers, recognising their important role.

The Dohne breed does the trick for them and they run 2000 Dohne ewes and 800 maiden Dohne ewes, in addition to their 6000ha cropping program.

But essentially it boiled down to a consistency in price for the sheep and cropping enterprises for the Boynes to remain confident in both industries.

"At the start of last year we were getting very average prices for our sheep, which sometimes makes you stop and wonder if you're doing the right thing," Peter said.

"The seasons have been pretty average around here from a cropping perspective, so we run sheep as a way of assuring income.

"But there needs to be a consistency in price from the market, not only for sheep but cropping also, to give farmers a bit of reassurance.

"At this point in time, the majority of farmers in this area need both sheep and cropping in the mix."

The Boynes chose to go down the Dohne path over the past six years to maximise their sheep production potential, experiencing increased lambing percentages, fast growing lambs and the ability to produce a few full wool bales.

There is also the additional benefit of local Mollerin Rock Dohne stud breeder Ian Longmuir breeding sheep nearby that were well-suited to the Koorda climate.

Initially the Boynes made the switch from their Merino flock because they wanted to stack more meat on the lamb rack by using Dohne rams, so once they were producing a heavier lamb they started to look at improving their wool cut.

"One of the best things about the Dohne is producing wool as well as meat," Reece said.

"They are certainly an easy-care lamb with superior bodyweight compared to a Merino lamb.

"The weights and growth-rates of Dohne lambs would definitely be on par with the British breeds, plus we get wool as well.

"They might cut less wool than a Merino but it still covers the cost of shearing and fills the bales.

"We haven't noticed much of a difference in price either."

The main shearing occurred at the end of October, while the maiden ewes were sometimes shorn in July before being sent on agistment in the tougher years.

Reece said shearing was a lot more pleasant, with the plain-bodied Dohnes making lighter work for the shearers.

One of the largest changes the Boynes have made in recent times was to push joining and lambing back, with the rams going in with the ewes at the end of January at 1.5 per cent for two cycles.

In doing this, they have pushed lambing to start at the end of June, at which point they usually had a very good indication of what type of season they were facing.

When it was a dry year they were able to manage their feed better, but they also found that joining them later increased their conception rates and lambing percentages.

"Last year we recorded 133 per cent lambing," Peter said.

"Since we've started lambing later, the increase in lambing is the biggest change I have noticed."

They began pregnancy testing for the first time last year in order to better manage their mobs and separate the dry ewes, sending them straight to the Muchea Livestock Centre.

They scanned again this year and recorded 95pc of the ewes were pregnant and more than 60pc were carrying twins.

Two weeks before lambing commences, the Boynes set up lick feeders to ensure the pregnant ewes received enough nutrients.

Once the lambs were up and about, they were shorn in October with the rest of the mob, finished on stubbles through the summer and sold from February onwards.

They were usually bought on-farm by Fletchers International when they reached the right specifications to dress out at 23kg.

It was a straight-forward cycle that worked well for the Boyne family, who will continue producing well-rounded, fast growing lambs providing the market prices remained consistent.

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