Reducing risk with sheep at Jitarning

Reducing risk with sheep at Jitarning

Sheep
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LES and Christine Tyson are gearing up for harvest on their Kulin/Jitarning property that has been in the family since the 1940s.

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Jitarning crop and sheep producers Les Tyson (left) with son Brent Tyson in their vetch pastures that have been a great benefit to their sheep operation and to improve soil health.

Jitarning crop and sheep producers Les Tyson (left) with son Brent Tyson in their vetch pastures that have been a great benefit to their sheep operation and to improve soil health.

LES and Christine Tyson are gearing up for harvest on their Kulin/Jitarning property that has been in the family since the 1940s.

This year they planted 3600 hectares, with 1200ha to wheat, 1200ha to barley, 600ha to canola and 600ha to lupins.

They live in a 325 millimetre average rainfall zone.

Until recently they were hoping for a good finish to their cropping program after rains came at the right time, but like others through the region they were hit with -4 degrees weather that saw about 80ha of canola damaged by frost, which will be cut for hay.

“We dry seeded so all the crops came up at the same time, the frost has damaged the barley, canola and lupins but we think the wheat will be OK,” their son Brent said.

“It’s just fortunate that we are seeing good prices for wheat and barley, which will make up for any losses.”

Last week the temperature reached 33oC with a hot easterly wind which Brent feared may have dried out some of the crops, but this was followed by cooler days and more rain that may alleviate some concern.

In August and September, the Tysons hosted pasture field day walks that were organised through the Facey Group and farm consultant Alan Peggs, to share their experience with others and highlight the results.

They had about 60ha involved in the trials – with 2.5ha per trial site.

The trials were conducted on 20ha of light soils, 20ha saline soils and 20ha of heavy soils.

“We are trying new and different varieties of pastures,” Brent said.

“On our light land trial we had new sub clover varieties.”

Brent said the Serradella had interesting results, although it had radish that was hard to control.

“We can see it will be good in the future to control diseases and with nematodes for putting nitrogen back into the soil for the crops,” he said.

The Tysons have 180ha of saline land where it is uneconomical to grow lupins or canola, so they had a saline land trial seeking a more profitable option.

“We can’t grow lupins or canola on it but we can grow cereals,” Brent said.

“The barley is more salt tolerant so it works alright.

“Neptune Messina is very impressive on salt scolds.

“Lucerne is deep rooted and will hopefully help reduce the water table.”

To make the most of the saline-affected soils, the Tysons have looked into utilising available annual pasture legumes that would allow sheep to graze the land and also put nitrogen back into the soil.

“We are really just living with the salt at the moment and putting pastures on it,” Brent said.

“On the heavy land, the best thing there was vetch.

“It seems like it will grow more feed in winter when medic clovers go a bit dormant.

“It is the best quality feed too, with 27 per cent crude protein.

“Hopefully we won’t need to use any Urea or Flexi-N for the next two crops grown on the vetch stubbles.”

Brent said the lupins were mostly kept “on hand for our sheep” and whatever was surplus to their needs they would sell.

The Tysons increased sheep numbers from 2300 to 3200 Merino breeding ewes and about 70 rams because of the high prices for wool and to reduce inputs and variable costs.

“The sheep help to keep the input costs on the farm down,” Brent said.

“They help diversify the income, keep variable costs down or lower.

“Sheep never compete with outright profit of cropping but they definitely keep variable costs down and reduce the risks.”

Les said farmers who stayed with sheep were being rewarded with good sheep meat and wool prices.

He said the sheep also resolved the problem of too much radish growing in the paddocks because they enjoyed feeding on that more so than some of the pastures.

The Tysons decided not to supply their stock to live exporters and in the past few months they have supplied to Beaufort River Meats earning $150 per head for their heavy wether lambs.

They also saw $190 per head for their ewe hoggets.

“They are good prices,” Brent said.

This year, despite the “hard start to a dry season” they were able to achieve a 82pc lambing rate, which was “a good result considering we only had 0.5mm for April, 11mm in May and didn’t really have a break of season until June 10,” Brent said.

“We have heard that lambing percentages have been low this season.”

Brent said they had to feed out about 300 round bales of wheat hay to keep their sheep in reasonable condition over the summer.

The Tysons have also taken up shearing their lambs and hoggets twice a year in February and September, growing about 50-60 millimetres in fibre length before being shorn.

“It’s a lot of work to shear twice a year,” Brent said.

“We employ contractors to do it.

“Shearing and feeding helps Merinos put on weight and gets them in good condition for having to sell early depending on the season.

“Sheep have been doing well since the break.”

About 116 bales of wool were sent to market a fortnight ago, with 80 bales sold and the rest passed in.

Brent said finding quality shearers when there was a shortage was a difficulty many farmers were experiencing, although they had a contract shearer for the past seven years and were “really happy” with his work.

Finding staff to fill much-needed positions on the farm was also a concern.

The Tysons said they had advertised for staff but there were not many people looking for farm work, preferring to stay closer to big centres.

The result was long days, working six or seven days a week to get the job done.

The costs and maintenance of machinery, as well as depreciation, have increased significantly in the past five years, which was another reason the Tysons have increased sheep numbers.

Brent said they were looking forward to harvest getting underway in the next couple of weeks.

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