Prime lambs play key role at Woodanilling

Prime lambs play key role at Woodanilling

WAMMCO Producer of the Month March winners Lee and Peter Bessell-Browne pictured with lambs in their feedlot last week.

WAMMCO Producer of the Month March winners Lee and Peter Bessell-Browne pictured with lambs in their feedlot last week.

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Peter and Lee Bessell-Browne of 'Naballing,' Woodanilling, were thrilled to win the WAMMCO Producer of the Month title for March 2019 with a draft of 109 Merino-Prime SAMM lambs that averaged 23.42 kilograms to return $152.78 per head.

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PETER and Lee Bessell-Browne of 'Naballing,' Woodanilling, were thrilled to win the WAMMCO Producer of the Month title for March 2019 with a draft of 109 Merino-Prime SAMM lambs that averaged 23.42 kilograms to return $152.78 per head.

A high, 98.16 per cent of the draft hit WAMMCO's 'sweet spot.'

The Bessell-Browne family first claimed the POM title, almost to the day five years ago in March 2012, with a draft of 110 Prime SAMM lambs averaging $113.36.

Peter incorporated prime lamb production into the farm business in response to low wool prices during the late 1990s.

Since then prime lambs have played an increased role, offering regular income throughout the year.

Their farm's close proximity to WAMMCO Katanning, enables Peter to regularly deliver small loads of heavy lambs.

"We are fortunate to not have too far to travel to deliver and the prices offered by WAMMCO, along with the annual rebates, are preferable to the former Select premium and other incentives used to boost producer returns several years ago," Peter said.

"We are now being paid on the basis of quality of the lambs we deliver, before a rebate, which last year was around $10 per head."

The prime lamb component of their business is based on lotfeeding with self-feeders dispensing lupins, oats and hay produced on the property.

"We run them into the feedlots in groups of about 600 head at a liveweight of 35kg or more," Peter said.

"Some are suckers starting in November, others we start on stubbles and trail feed, then run them in when they hit the liveweight target."

Lee said they frequently reviewed their lotfeeding system because it was not something you can set and forget.

"Adjustments are made according to grain price and seasonal conditions," Lee said.

"We are always tweaking the system to make sure it stays efficient.

"There's no point spending $35 per lamb feeding grain to make only an extra $30."

After a stint at the Muresk Institute and several years of shearing, Lee has brought to the family farm an accumulation of knowledge on sheep breeding, the wool industry, and various management techniques.

"Working as a shearer gave me a first hand insight to the way other people manage their livestock," Lee said.

"I've never been afraid to ask questions and learn from anyone I see doing a great job.

"In that respect I think my shearing years have been some of the most valuable to me - getting to learn from sheep farmers all around the region."

The Bessell-Browne family is now looking to increase its sheep numbers and to adjust its livestock breeding policy to meet future market trends.

It has been buying in large-framed Merino ewes with a good history of lambing as well as quality wool production.

"The stronger wool market and higher values for older Merino ewes, have rewarded our decision to make a shift away from Prime SAMMs back to Merinos, using Billandri breeding stock," Peter said.

They regard WAMMCO's decision to invest in a separate mutton processing facility at Katanning as an important underwriting for the sheep industry, with live exports under ongoing threat.

Lee said last year's late break was extremely tough on livestock, however despite the challenging conditions, their Merino lambing percentage was still in the mid-90s and their Prime SAMM flock lambing percentage remained above 115.

Recent March rainfall has sparked welcome early pasture growth and provides hope for a good start to the new season.

Pingelly producer Bruce Sewell and Michael Luccesi, Kulin, continued to score top points in WAMMCO's monthly contest for March.

The Sewell family was second with 98.08pc of 312 lambs averaging 22.57kg in the 'sweet spot' with Mr Luccesi a close third on 98.02pc of his 101 lamb draft in the premium category, averaging 22.58kg.

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