HOGGET lambs producing 110 millimetre long wools in only nine months of a low-feed year like this is considered an endorsement of their methods by the Wilkinson family, Badgingarra.
Their Challara Merino stud and commercial hogget lambs, shorn in December, and ewes, shorn in late March, went through the shearing shed again five weeks ago and produced 84 bales of wool sold at the Western Wool Centre (WWC) on Thursday last week.
The ewes produced wool with staple lengths ranging from 57 millimetres to 70mm, with most being in the high 60s from six months’ growth in what Peter Wilkinson described as a poor year for feed.
“It was definitely a below average season for feed for us – it was a shocker in June,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“Last year the ewes did a bit better (in wool length) but obviously the season helped there.”
The Challara flocks are big plain-bodied sheep that produce good cut weights of stylish wools with a bold crimp that processes well at five to 10mm longer than their relaxed staple lengths would indicate, so the shortness this time was not considered an issue.
The Wilkinsons have been shearing their ewes on a six-month cycle for four years and both Mr Wilkinson and Primaries of WA wool manager Greg Tilbrook are adamant it works for them.
“Last year they cut 4.3 kilograms during the winter months, this year it was about 3.8kg, which is still good for six months and with lambs at foot and no feed,” Mr Tilbrook said.
“Their wools produce good strength results, they are all sound as a church.
“Historically, what we are finding is the clip over summer is a little bit lower yielding and a little bit less in the cut.
“But consistently Peter and Ron (Peter’s father) have been averaging between 3.5kg to a best of 4.2kg in winter last year because of the seasonal conditions, so you could say they are averaging about 3.9kg cut per shearing at six months with their ewes.
“They are cutting a total of 7.5-8kg of full fleece wool a year, they are cutting out the crutching, their lambing percentage had always been up, and they don’t have fly problems because the wool the way it is, sheds moisture,” he said.
Mr Wilkinson said an improvement in strength of the wool was one of the obvious benefits of a six-month shearing cycle.
The Challara wools on offer last week tested from 34 Newtons per kilotex to 55Nkt with most lines in the mid 40s.
“Definitely one of the advantages of shearing more often is getting the strength up,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“As soon as we started shearing every six months we noticed the difference.
“We used to be 32s (Nkt) average and 120mm staple length – the wool was overlong so that’s why we changed to six-month shearing,” he said.
One of Mr Wilkinson’s secrets for strong wool growth and a better than 110 per cent lambing rate is a sheep lick recipe he devised himself.
“Its got sulphur and other goodies they are lacking in the environment – trace elements that are missing so we have to replace them,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“Our (ewe) wool was 70-75mm last winter and through last summer too – the minerals licks definitely helped last summer.”
Challara mated a stud flock of 750 breeding ewes and a commercial ewe flock of about 2050, and with weaner ewes mated, had a total lamb drop of just on 3600 this year.
“We’ve been mating our ewe weaners for quite a few years now so we get another 500-600 lambs on the ground from them,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“For us (the lambing rate) is about 110pc from our ewes mated but we’ve certainly had commercial grower clients that are getting 120 to 130pc on ewes mated – that’s July dropping.
“We’re losing a bit because we’re May-June drop and that’s because we choose to be, but we’re gaining through mating our ewe weaners.”
The Challara lambs are shorn with five or six months’ wool on them and then they come back into line with the hoggets and are shorn with the main ewe flock in September.
“We’re considering in the future instead of a nine-month shearing for hoggets bringing that back a bit, maybe shear them in July-August for three shearings in two years,” Mr Wilkinson said.
He admitted a six-month shearing cycle would not work for everyone.
“You need the breeding, you need the feed and to run reasonably light stocking rates for it to work for you,” he said.
The 84 bales of Challara wool from a September shearing sold for a sweep-the-floor average price of 1245 cents a kilogram greasy last week.
The top line of nine bales of 17.6 micron Merino fleece sold to Techwool Trading for 1520c/kg after some spirited bidding.
It had specifications of 84 millimetre staple length, 19 per cent coefficient of variation, 0.5pc vegetable matter, yield of 69.4pc and 35Nkt strength.
A second top price of 1459c/kg was achieved by a two-bale lot of 16.8 micron lamb’s wool.
Last Thursday was also a profitable day for the Wilkinson family at Primaries’ breeding ewe, Merino lamb and crossbred lamb sale at Eneabba.
They sold 1309 ewes to a top of $150