Kellys' sheep faith sees WAMMCO win

27 Jun, 2015 02:00 AM
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Wongan Hills producer Scott Kelly (left), with Elders Wongan Hills agent Jeff Brennan, who organises the sales of the Kellys' sheep. The family won the WAMMCO producer of the Month title for May with a line of Poll Merino ram lambs.
Wongan Hills producer Scott Kelly (left), with Elders Wongan Hills agent Jeff Brennan, who organises the sales of the Kellys' sheep. The family won the WAMMCO producer of the Month title for May with a line of Poll Merino ram lambs.

GOOD prices for wool, live shippers and lamb continue to justify Wongan Hills farmer Scott Kelly's and his ex-shearer father David's long-held faith in the sheep industry.

And a line of 117 of their lambs has won WAMMCO's May 2015 Producer of the Month title.

Sharing the task of cleaning up unwanted weeds from summer rains, the winning lambs were topped off on a light ration of hay and lupins through self feeders and dressed out at an average of 22.77 kilograms to win their first WAMMCO title.

Scott said good recent lamb prices came on top of good prices for wool and export hoggets.

"The sheep returns have actually beaten some of our cropping figures this season, with the bonus that the flock has also done a good job of tidying up some weeds from summer rains and on a new property we leased at Bindoon," he said.

Matings were increased to 2200 Poll Merino ewes last year to cover the extra land and weed control, but Scott expects to stabilise at about 2000 ewes each year, split between more than 7000 hectares on the Wongan and Bindoon properties.

Angus cattle have also been introduced at Bindoon.

Running Merinos was a tradition that grew from Dave Kelly's early career as a shearer and led to him taking up land at Wongan Hills with his brothers Brian and Peter in the mid-1960s.

He founded the Northwich Poll Merino stud on Pollville genetics from South Australia in 1971 with the aim of breeding large-framed sheep that were suited to a northern Wheatbelt environment.

Poll rams from the stud are a feature of the multi-vendor ram sale held in Wongan Hills in September.

"The focus for many years was on a suitable wool type for the environment but we certainly moved further in favour of more frame and meat as the wool market collapsed," Scott said.

He has seen farmers in the region transfer their disappointment in wool to breeds of meat sheep such as Prime SAMMs, Dohnes and Dorpers but not many have carried through.

"Local involvement with sheep is still on the decline, particularly as fathers retire and hiring labour becomes too expensive," Scott said.

Lamb drafts for WAMMCO and ram, hogget and other sale transactions are generally organised by local Elders agent Jeff Brennan.

As Dave prepares to retire, Scott's twin 20-year-old sons James and Kristan have taken jobs in the mining industry for experience which their father hopes will assist them in future life on the farm.

Scott believes WAMMCO has done a good job of keeping WA's lamb industry viable and sees increasing competition for the product as a major challenge.

"It could be time for WAMMCO to put some pricing pressure on our hoggets," he said.

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