THERE have been some interesting 'dry start' strategies employed out along the No 2 rabbit proof fence just east of Dumbleyung this season.
With no double digit rainfall until the end of June, Damien and Ross Gooding tried some new tactics in their cropping and grazing programs on the family's historic 'Mundalla' property.
A bonus to their success in saving big areas of crop from the dry-then-frost-imposed conditions, was that their lamb business not only survived, but thrived to the point where the Goodings were announced the WAMMCO's Producers of the Month for September 2018.
Their winning draft of 172 new seasons, White Suffolk-Merino cross lambs were processed at Katanning on September 14, averaging 21.54 kilogram and returning $152.49 including skins.
The POM 'clincher' was that a near-record 99.4 per cent of these lambs achieved WAMMCO's premium 'sweet spot' criteria.
Finalising the purchase of a neighbouring property in June this year was a blessing in disguise with the new property also enjoying slightly better early rains than the home property.
A line of 650 Merino ewes mated to Suffolk rams were purchased from the same owner.
Ross Gooding said lamb mortality, due mainly to the lack of feed, had hit dreadful levels in the region this year.
"We were hand-feeding until early August and managed to secure a lambing of about 96pc of our mated ewes," Ross said.
"Many others fared much worse than that.
"This year we are cropping 70 per cent wheat, barley, canola , oats and lupins, with 30pc clover and medics.
"An increase in sheep numbers this year will probably return our future crop/livestock ratio closer to 60/40."
Ross said the winning draft of White Suffolk-Merino crossbreds lambs came from a mob of about 350 and they were finished on a crop of barley that was dry seeded in April.
The barley got away early with the clover responding later as the rainfall improved, giving the lambs a very good finish.
"Another decision to cut, bale and freeze a 75 hectare area of frosted wheat, also paid dividends when a mob of 860 Merino wether lambs was moved onto the area in mid-October," Ross said.
Elders Lake Grace livestock agent Graeme Taylor can expect most of these wether lambs to easily reach the benchmark 46kg liveweight when he weighs them for sale in the near future.
Ross said Mundalla had escaped the full force of the September frosts, but together with the poor opening rains, he expected crop yields to be down but the overall average to be OK.
Like most sheepmen who have retained their flocks, the Goodings believe the bouyant lamb and wool prices are now the key to drought and frost proofing their business.
Their flock of more than 3600 Merino ewes is mated equally to rams from Phillip and Daniel Gooding's East Mundalla Merino stud at Tarin Rock and to White Suffolks sourced from Ross and Nathan Ditchburn's Golden Hill stud at Kukerin.
"We apply a similar selection criteria to both our Merino and White Suffolk suppliers and are impressed by the continuing improvement in genetics, especially with eye muscle, growth and fertility rates in both breeds," Ross said.
The Goodings believe that political uncertainty over the livestock export trade will continue to build as a critical issue for the industry.
"The trade developed as an outlet for Merinos at the end of their wool growing life," Ross said.
"It will be much harder to convince young farmers to increase wool and lamb core numbers by returning to sheep, if the export trade is cut from the equation."
Damien and Ross both graduated from the Muresk Institute and returned to Mundalla in 2000 and 2004 respectively.
Ross and his wife Pip have two children Hamish (4) and Chloe (2) and Damien and his wife Megan also have two young children Eva (4) and James (2).
Their father Malcom's grandfather Lionel and his brother Beau came to WA from Mundalla in South Australia via the WA Goldfields to take up virgin land at Dumbleyung in 1910.