Wesfarmers Dalgety WITH the investment in quality in the past decade by WA stud and commercial ram breeders, the commercial woolgrower who has been wise enough to put up with the pain will be rewarded. Your confidence in the future, however, will be recognised only if you address other management issues in parallel with wool quality. These issues are strictly farm management practices, such as time of lambing, time of shearing, pasture quality, and summer feeding, all of which affect wool growth and soundness. The critical issue facing wool processors is soundness of wool and the wool attracting the least competition is unsound wool with a midbreak. Manage this well and you will see other areas of profit in your sheep enterprise, such as lambing percentages, come to the fore. Average lambing percentages for the WA Merino flock is 72 per cent when 100pc can be achieved through the better management of the ewes and rams. What business today can increase by 28pc simply by addressing management? Based on the 1998 average for Merino rams sold at auction, one ram costs $673. Given the average for all commercial sheep sold last season was $24/head, a 28pc improvement in lambing percentage (that is, 100pc lambing), will buy you one ram extra for every 100 ewes mated. At 72pc lambing, each ram produces 288 lambs over four years at $24 per head, which is a return of $6912, better than 10 times your initial investment, before the wool component. So when budgeting for you ram purchases in the forthcoming season, do it with the same calculative effort you apply to your cropping program for which you have no guarantees of a return. A livestock enterprise offers a cash flow and flexibility to farming and the Merino offers greater flexibility in that it is a rural purpose animal. No other animal on a large commercial place offers this bonus. The West Australian Merino should be recognised for more than the wool it grows, for, without Merino ewes, there would not be a sheepmeat, prime lamb or export industry. Spring 1999 is the last ram selling season of the century but, because of the quality available, the built-in versatility of the breed and your commitment, it should be the springboard to propel your sustainability into the next century. Lets leave this century with history showing that the Merino did carry Australia on its back and that maybe it can shoulder its share of the burden well into the next century. So buy your rams with confidence and without compromise for they have the potential, managed well, to keep you on the land. pMore information: Preston Clarke, mobile 0418 963 422, office 9273 5249, a/h 9359 3710, Kevin Stone mobile 0417 987 939, office 9921 1344, a/h 9923 2760.