Sheep and cropping works best

27 Apr, 2014 02:00 AM
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Boyup Brook farmers Jess Hayes (left), Luke and Nigel Harding have been using some of the best management tools available in the sheep industry which has helped them to recently expand and run a profitable operation
We have always obtained high conception rates and lambing percentages...
Boyup Brook farmers Jess Hayes (left), Luke and Nigel Harding have been using some of the best management tools available in the sheep industry which has helped them to recently expand and run a profitable operation

USING some of the best management tools available in the sheep industry has aided passionate farmers Nigel Harding, son Luke and his fiancé Jess Hayes to recently expand and run a profitable operation in Boyup Brook.

After a short stint in Darkan, Mr Harding's parents bought the 400 hectare Boyup Brook home property, Park Hills, in 1960 and Nigel, along with his brother John, began breeding AMS fine wool Merinos.

A strong focus on micron testing over the past 15 years as well as worm control has seen the flock expanded to 2900, of which 400 are joined to Dohne rams.

Mr Harding said they were mating a number of Merino ewes to Border Leicester rams but they had too many eye problems and despite being in a reliable rainfall area, the F1 ewes would fall away in condition when there was no green feed around.

"In more recent years we have made the switch to Dohne rams and have found the F1 crossbreds to be much hardier sheep with good frame and excellent mothering abilities," he said.

"We purchase our Dohne rams from the Far Valley and Capercup studs."

The F1 Dohnes are mated to White Suffolk rams which are bred from Luke and Ms Hayes' small Burra Park White Suffolk stud.

"After a brief discussion about starting a stud we soon found ourselves at the Nalvin Park dispersal where we ended up buying 40 stud ewes," Luke said.

"Jess selected four as donors and with the help from Simon Bell, Breedtech, Kojonup, the first embryos have been implanted into a proportion of our F1 Dohnes which are due to lamb with the remaining flock from June 1."

In the first week of January all the rams are joined for a five-week period, with the wether teasers being put in two weeks prior to encourage synchronisation.

After a three-year break in pregnancy scanning, the Hardings decided to scan again this season and as a result were reassured their conception rates are still high with only 60 out of the 1500 ewes scanning empty on the home property.

"We have always obtained high conception rates and lambing percentages and I strongly believe it is due to the intensive three-year worm trial we completed with the Department of Agriculture and Food," Mr Harding said.

"We were the furthest west property in the State to incorporate the trial into our operation which involved monitoring three flocks every month for three years."

Annual field days were held on property and the results achieved from the findings of two Albany veterinarians were very interesting.

"We noticed a large fluctuation in our worm counts due to the seasonal stress they were under," Mr Harding said.

The family is still reaping the sustainable worm control and treatment benefits, not only in lambing rates of 90 per cent or above but also the body weight and fleece weight of their stock.

Shearing in early October sees the Harding's fine wool Merinos achieve a greasy fleece weight of 4kg and after many years of intensive fleece testing on their hoggets they average 17.5 micron across the board.

When it comes to selling their wool, the family and local Dyson Jones representative Paul Blight observe the market closely and like many try to sell when the demand for fine wool is high.

Often they hold onto wool until the first auction after Christmas but last season decided to sell prior and averaged $8/kg greasy.

In recent years have averaged as high as $14/kg.

Spring is the optimal time for the family to sell as many crossbred lambs as they can straight off ewes to V & V Walsh.

Often a third of their lambs are sold this way. Luke said they would like to see more but it all depends on the season.

"Those lambs which do not reach 45kg liveweight off mum are shorn and carried over to mature on stubble," he said.

"In January they are supplemented on Easy One pellets for three to four weeks and are sold as soon as they reach the optimum weight."

In recent months the Hardings have purchased 660ha, 44km south east of Boyup Brook and along with it 1500 Merinos, 1200 of which were already mated to White Suffolk rams.

Luke said the purchase of the new property saw an increase in stock numbers and the ability to increase the cropping operation.

As a 2006 Cunderdin Agricultural College graduate who was awarded top student in the State for on-farm competencies, Luke plays a great part not only in the family's sheep enterprise but the 380ha that is devoted to canola, barley, wheat and oat crops.

"We plant a good variety of oats which is great protein for supplementing our ewes," Luke said.

"From the middle of January until the break of the season the sheep are fed 200 grams a day three times a week."

Despite Luke gaining employment for two years back at Cunderdin Agricultural College as a technical officer in the cropping division, his passion has always been shearing and together with Ms Hayes they work in a shearing team off-farm.

"With seeding complete and Jess wool handling, the shearing works in well with our mixed farming operation," Luke said.

"In this area we must spread our risks and in doing so we find the mix between the sheep and cropping operation is an ideal one."

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