THE roots of the WAMMCO International prime lamb competition trace well beyond the two years the competition has been held in its current format.
In its previous form, it was run for nearly a decade as a hoof and hook competition for a pair of light, medium or heavyweight carcases and frequently the trading name of ST & D James figured among the successful entrants.
Doug Hinchcliffe and his wife Ann, who manage Stuart and Deborah James¹ property at Broomehill, are competitors who successfully made the transition to the bigger entry requirement when they finished ninth last year.
Doug Hinchcliffe said they hadn¹t intended to enter lambs but when they were delivered as part of their normal turnoff they were given the option and, as always Doug took advantage of an opportunity to learn a bit more about the sheep.
³I guess we entered it for fun but you can¹t afford to stop learning - so much changes from year to year and it gives you an indication of where you sit in comparison with what other farmers are doing and shows you where you can improve,² he said.
Adding substance to their results was the large size of the draft. They sent in a 504-head consignment.
This year they have entered two lines and have been more discerning in their selection.
The first was delivered in mid-October and comprised 150 of their biggest and earliest lambs that were the first through the gate.
The second entry, sent in later, was a hand picked line of 110 lambs weighing more than 50kg.
So far they have turned off 1060 lambs this year and all have gone through WAMMCO.
According to Doug it has been a successful selling year with good weights, good skin values, and very few score fours and only one score five.
Doug and Ann make all the selling decisions.
He says they always keep their selling options open but for the past two years every lamb they have sold has gone through the cooperative.
³A couple of years ago it was better to sell export but at the moment WAMMCO is the way to go,² he said.
The James family usually turns off about 1700 prime lambs a year.
They keep a Merino breeding flock with 48 years of Woodyarrup bloodlines from which they produce all their replacement ewes.
In the past, they have joined about 70pc of their Merinos to Merino rams and the rest to Poll Dorsets.
This year they have decided to increase the number joined for crossbreds to 40pc.
Even at that ratio Doug is confident they can sustain their Merino breeding ewe numbers, saying since they started tooth grinding their ewes when they reached 4.5 years of age they have been able to extend their productive lives. Consequently, they are keeping their ewes to eight or nine years old.
Sires are bought from Norm Hill¹s Point Creek Poll Dorset stud at Mt Barker.
The prime lambs are dropped in May and early June and are either sold in the spring or off stubbles in early summer as soon as they are ready.
They don¹t hold carryover lambs but will feed out some lupins to ensure they finish as soon as possible.
In preparing a draft for sale, Doug and Ann firstly do a visual draft then weigh each lamb to ensure it is more than 43kg liveweight.
Experience has taught him that guessing weights as they are drafted can be deceptive and scales are an essential part of selling.
³You get some lambs that put it all into their bodies and have very little wool and they can look smaller but you know they will weigh heavy,² Doug said.
They also put in the effort to crutch any lambs that need it, knowing it is a penalty they will have to sustain if lambs need to be cleaned up at the abattoir.