TAKING over as Milne Feeds suppliers on their Tamma Hill property, near York, has worked a treat for the Collins family.
After six months of running the specially-built Phoenix Shed depot, the business has put through 1000 tonnes of feed pellets, according to Mitch Collins.
“We get about five trucks a week on average,” Mr Collins said.
“We have supplied sheep producers from as far east as Bruce Rock and as far north as Kalannie.
“We’ve even bought a new JCB telehandler with a 1.5 tonne bucket to load up trucks faster.
“It has made it quicker when loading and more efficient.”
Mr Collins said he had the idea to take on the depot when he saw the need in the area after the previous depot in Cunderdin closed in 2016.
The on-farm depot has reduced travel and delivery times for buyers in the area, who previously had to travel into Perth.
The Cunderdin depot turned over about 2000t of pellets a year, which means the Collins’ are on track to equal that throughput.
Mr Collins said he had his sights a bit higher, with a goal of 2500t-3000t per year.
“The problem is with supply,” he said.
“The demand is so good it’s hard to keep up.”
Mr Collins said they stocked EasyOne and EasyLick pellets which had no adaptations, so they were healthy for the sheep.
It has also been handy for their feedlot, which they were planning to expand.
“At the moment we only have 500 lambs in the feedlot, but we have the capacity for 1000 head,” he said.
“We are planning to expand that to 2000 in the next few months.”
The decision to expand the feedlot was in part due to the success of the Milne Feeds depot – which provided easy access to ongoing supplies of pellets for stock feed.
Mr Collins said the high prices for wool and sheep meat was also part of the decision.
The expansion wouldn’t have much effect on their existing operation as there is plenty of room to add on extra fenced areas, as well as feeder and watering facilities in place to cope with the extra numbers.
Mr Collins said they stocked the feedlot from their existing flock of 2000 Merino breeding ewes, as well as by purchasing lambs from other producers.
“We’ll sell as many lambs as we can straight out of the paddock and the others that need help to get to the right weight, we will put in the feedlot,” he said.
“We also buy in-store lambs and raise them up.”
Mr Collins said they had mixed-sex lambs in the feedlot, which were mainly Merino crossbreds.
“We have seen excellent results with the pellets – with a weight gain of 300 grams per day on average for the six weeks we have them,” he said.
“It usually takes a few weeks for them to adjust and get use to the new system in the feedlot and then in the last few weeks they put on all the weight.”
Mr Collins said the target weight for supplying to the Northam abattoir was 45 kilograms-plus, in order to meet the demand in the market.
“We’ve got about 250 that we will be shipping off to them this week,” he said.
Mr Collins said the feedlot usually operated from October through to March and when new lambs were brought in, they were drenched and vaccinated before joining the mix.
He said sometimes the lambs were shorn, which allowed them to put on weight faster, and the lambs did better in the cooler conditions.
“The wetter weather slows them down a bit but we do have shelter for them with the trees,” Mr Collins said.
He said his usual daily activity with the feedlot consisted of checking and cleaning the troughs once in the morning, as well as cleaning the feeders, then checking them again in the afternoon.
“Normally we would expect some deaths among the lambs – as it depends on the quality of the lambs that come in,” he said.
“But this year we have not had any deaths, which is great.”
The JCB Telehandler also comes in handy when refilling the pellet feeders in the feedlot – with the 1.5t bucket enabling faster filling times and reducing trips back and forth from the shed.