WESTERN Australian suppliers of prime lamb to WAMMCO are now automatically included in a new simpler competition to replace the long-standing, red-meat-yield-based WAMMCO State Prime Lamb Carcase Competition.
The new criteria have also been used since July 2016, to determine WAMMCO’s Producer of the Month awards.
Eligible entries will be automatically assessed from members who supply either a minimum of 250 crossbred or Merino lambs to the co-operative each financial year.
Entries will receive a score out of 100, with 80 per cent of the points assigned to the percentage of defect-free carcases in the prime 18.1-28 kilogram, fat score 2-3 range.
The remaining 20pc on the timing and volume of shipments with more points for larger consignments delivered outside the traditional spring flush.
WAMMCO supply development manager Rob Davidson said members were no longer required to enter their lambs for either the State or monthly awards and nomination fees no longer applied, because eligible lambs were automatically assessed at the point of slaughter.
Mr Davidson said separate Producer of the Year awards would be made for both crossbred and Merino categories, with separate prizes also for small, medium and large suppliers.
He also welcomed inaugural sponsors to the Producer of the Year, including Elders, Primaries of WA, Zoetis, Elanco Animal Health, Stud Merino Breeders’ Association of WA and Farm Weekly.
Since July last year, the broader criteria has also been used to decide Producer of the Month awards and has already opened up the competition to more lamb producers using a wider range of genetics, in more areas of the State.
Mr Davidson said winning consignments had scored as high as 99.3pc of lambs in WAMMCO’s nominated category, with average weights going well above 22kg and returns nudging $140 a head.
The July and August 2016 winners, David Millsteed and Ken Siegert respectively, were both producer clients of Elders’ Wongan Hills agent, Jeff Brennan, starting a significant new presence for Midlands prime lamb producers among WAMMCO’s monthly awards.
Mr Brennan said WAMMCO’s new focus on lamb and sheep production to the north of Perth was confirmation that producers in the region were continuing to invest in sheep and were also enjoying better returns for wool as well as stable incomes from prime lamb.
“While there has been no rush back into sheep, producers have been consolidating their livestock enterprises,” he said.
“We are seeing a swing to White Suffolk and Dohne genetics in particular with carcase weights at the top of the commercial range.”
Wongan Hills farmer, David Millsteed, wife Robyn and sons Bryce and Mason, Daybron Farms, are Merino producers of long standing who began buying White Suffolk rams from the Glass family’s Fenwick Farms stud at Calingiri seven years ago.
The family currently mates 3000 ewes to White Suffolks and about 2000 ewes to Merino rams.
Of their large consignment of 464 crossbred lambs 94.6pc hit the 18.1-28kg, fat score 2/3 category.
The lambs were processed at Katanning on July 21, 2016 and averaged 22.93kg to return $122.49 a head.
Nearby Wongan Hills producers, KJ & RP Seigert, delivered 127 White Suffolk-Dohne lambs to Katanning on August 25 last year to see 99.2pc of them qualify as defect-free carcases in the top category, and win the producer title for that month.
The Seigert brothers, Ken and Rod and Ken’s son Tim run a self-replacing flock of Merino ewes mated to Merino rams.
Five years ago they began crossing 500 Dohne cross ewes with White Suffolk rams the Fenwick Farms stud.
The titles for September, October and November were won by Kojonup/Boyup producers, Rod Brockman, Brad Skaha-managed, Mt Ferguson Grazing and James Kelly.
September winners Rod Brockman, wife Kay, son David and daughter-in-law Roxanne have a family connection to the Kojonup property and to sheep farming dating back to 1928.
They mate about 4000 Merino ewes each year, half to Merino rams for lambing in June and half to White Suffolk rams, timed to drop from May 15.
Rod said the effects of a stunning season were still evident, matching nicely to solid returns for both wool and prime lamb.
Their winning September 13 draft of 195 White Suffolk-Merino crossbreds delivered 98.97pc of lambs in the premium class, averaging 21.01kg and $107.54 a head.
October winners Mt Ferguson Grazing at Boyup Brook is also a Merino-based farming enterprise mating about 1800 ewes to Merino rams from Wiringa Park, Sunny Valley and East Strathglen studs and 1200-1500 ewes to Poll Dorset rams from the Tipperary stud, Walkaway.
The farm business was purchased in 2015 by Rockingham-based Noel Castle, Castle Equipment, from the Skraha family however Brad Skraha and his wife Kirsten continue to manage the operation for the new owners.
Mr Skraha delivered 259 Poll Dorset cross lambs to Katanning on October 4 to win the award for that month, with 96.9pc of the draft top scoring with an average weight of 22.21kg for $110.18 a head return.
A Poll Dorset-Merino prime lamb base also assisted Kojonup breeders JE Kelly & Co to win the WAMMCO Producer of the Month award for November, 2016.
Of the 120 lambs in their consignment 98.3pc scored the top category, weighing in at 22.38kg to return an average of $101.81 a head.
James Kelly said his great grandfather took up the Boscabel property in 1907.
The enterprise today was based 70pc on sheep and 30pc on canola, barley and oats.
Merino genetics in the flock are from the Strath-Haddon stud and the local stud Angenup, while Poll Dorset rams were from Craig Heggaton’s Sherwood stud also at Kojonup.
Mr Kelly said lambing percentages in the crossbred flock had averaged between 105 and 107pc over the past five years.
The Producer of the Month award returned to the north at the end of 2016, with the December title going to the Isbister family’s Ranfurly Agriculture at Barberton near Moora.
Ranfurly’s 99.3 percentage of a consignment of 151 Poll Dorset-Merino cross lambs qualified in the top category to set a record for the first six months of the new judging criteria.
The lambs averaged 21.75kg to generate a pleasing return.
John Isbister said he and his wife Margaret managed the business along with his parents Stuart and Isobel.
Sheep are an integral part of the business and are a complimentary fit with the farm cropping rotation.
The sheep enterprise had moved over the past six years from a mix of Merino and crossbred ewes to an all Merino self-replacing flock with two thirds mated to Merinos and one third to Poll Dorset rams.
Like other producers they were enjoying a lift in the prospects for wool and buoyant global demand for lamb, on top of a bumper 2016 season.
Winners of the January, February, and March 2017 Producers of the Month awards have already been published in Farm Weekly.
They were Keith Carter, Wubin (January); Don Sadler, Wongan Hills (February) and Steve Gamble, Wyalkatchem (March).