Spreading the risk at Williams

31 Aug, 2012 02:00 AM
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MARKET flexibility has been the key to the Schulz family running a successful mixed farming enterprise on 2428 hectares in the Williams district.

Wayne and Beth Schulz together with their sons Simon and his wife Nat, and Roger, crop 1100ha on their Murreena property as well as running 4500 Merino ewes and 100 Angus-Simmental cross cows.

The property was established 45 years ago by Wayne's parents Ern and Ida and for a long time always had Merinos on it.

But over the last 12 years the family has introduced White Suffolk sires to the mix and today mate 2000 older ewes to the White Suffolks to produce prime lambs.

With the four enterprises, the Schulz family strongly believes in market flexibility.

"We are not locked into one fixed market but choose to sell our wool and livestock to whoever is willing to pay the most at the end of the day," Roger said.

Every two to three years the family purchased their elite sires from the Bingham family's Iveston White Suffolk stud, Williams and their Merino rams from the Norrish family's Angenup Merino stud, Kojonup and Toorackie Merino stud, Williams.

The Schulz family currently breed their own rams but believe in infusing new genetics into their Merino and prime lamb flock every couple of years.

Wayne said they had 30 purebred White Suffolk ewes, which are mated to the Iveston rams, to produce replacement ewes and ram lambs which are joined to the older, four to five-year-old Merino ewes for prime lamb production.

"We find it more cost effective to breed our own rams," Wayne said.

"We selected the White Suffolk rams which have good body length and are not too broad in the shoulders and head."

Like their purebred White Suffolk flock, the family also has a nucleus Merino flock of 140 ewes from which they select their nucleus replacements and ram lambs.

All the rams are joined to the Merino ewes in December at two per cent for a six to seven week period.

"Our ewes begin to lamb late May, early June and are put on lick feeders using our own barley and oats to maintain their weight and keep up their nutritional intake," Wayne said.

"Each season we hope to get the season break so the ewes are lambing down on green feed."

The Schulz family made the move to prime lamb breeding a number of years ago when Merino lambs were hard to sell, there was an over-supply of wool and wool taxes were through the roof.

They initially trialled another breed but turned to the White Suffolk rams as they found the lambs were being born much easier.

"Depending on the season they can be a reasonable size but often they come out easily as they have small heads and shoulders," Wayne said.

With last year's spring rains the family's lambing percentages have risen with the Merino flock averaging 100pc and the prime lamb flock averaging 110pc.

"On a usual year we average 100pc in the prime lamb flock and 90pc in the Merino but this year was slightly better," Simon said.

"All ewes were in good condition when mated, which also made a difference."

The family pregnancy scans all their Merino maiden ewes to detect for wet and dries.

Last year they scanned 90pc in lamb and the dries were sold straight away and given no second chances.

The Merino lambs and prime lambs are weaned at 12 to 14 weeks with the prime lambs sold on the domestic or live export market at five to six months at 38 to 40kg liveweight.

Simon said some were straight off mum but most went later on.

"Half were sent to the abattoirs and the others went on the boats this season and we averaged $90 a head for them," he said.

"This was one of the top averages we have achieved but we would really like more."

Wayne believes the so-called industry gurus who have gone to industry information days to tell producers they must increase the State's flock number, is cutting the long-term sheep and wool producers' throats.

"With the State's flock numbers starting to slowly increase again we have already seen the market price for our lambs and wool begin to slip away," he said.

"I believe this season the lamb market will be down 20pc because more lambs will become available to processors who will then be able to dictate the price again."

When it comes to selling their Merino wethers the Schulz family often hold onto them until they reach 12 months depending on the season.

The main shearing is in January and like their lambs the family sells their wool on-farm to whoever offers the most money.

Last year they averaged 960c/kg for their wool with the flock averaging 20 micron.

"We shear our purebred White Suffolk flock twice a year," Roger said.

"We like to look after our elite ewes and keep them in top condition."

The Schulz family have been breeding Merinos along with beef cattle for a number of years and currently grainfed their crossbred calves in a feedlot until 12 months when they are then sold through the abattoirs.

"Again we sell to whoever is willing to pay the best for them as this way we can sell when and where we like and hopefully get the average market price or better," Roger said.

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