Advertiser content: BUNGULLA Merinos was founded at Mudgee by Enid and Geoff Capel in 1972 using Haddon Rig ewes.
After moving the stud to Manilla, NSW, in 1974, selective breeding has created a sheep that will withstand high summer rainfall, to meet client needs.
Manager of the family business, Peter Capel said they sell to clients with big summer rain events, typically in southern Queensland, the Northern Tablelands, central and western NSW. His wife, Louise, and two sons, Jock and Angus, are part of the business, which also includes his mother, Enid.
Mr Capel regularly judges sheep at national and royal shows around Australia and said it was an opportunity to talk to some of the country's best breeders and see the best livestock the industry has to offer.
Bungulla Merino sheep exhibit bright, white, well-nourished wool, on ewes and rams with spring in the ribs, good structure, and high fertility. Progeny are classed on structural soundness, early maturing and heavy cutting fleeces.
"We're retaining seven and eight-year-old ewes here that continue to produce heavy cutting fleeces of our type. They're Merinos that are bred for longevity. They have to retain their quality and quantity to remain in the flock."
A polled Merino stud was added in 2008, with 250 ewes. The entire flock is classed annually by Mr Capel.
"The sheep has got to give me a reason to like it."
About 500 to 600 ewes are sold annually at one-and-a-half year-old, along with 400 to 500 older ewes. More than 300 rams are sold annually, in the on-property sale and by private selection.
"We continue to grow our sale ram numbers."
Firmly entrenched as a tradition of the annual on-property ram sale, the Capel family donates one sire to raise funds for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
In recent years, the ram sale - offering horned and polled sires - has topped at $7500 (2016 and 2017) and averaged $2093 (2016), $2336 (2017) and $1701 (2018, under drought conditions).
Repeat clients favour the sale, but every year the stud attracts new buyers.
"People are always welcome to come and have a look. They don't have to wait until sale day."
With an in-paddock joining rate of two per cent, the lambing percentages are good, averaging at 100 per cent to 110pc and up to 125pc in a good season. Drought has gripped the region for a couple of years now, but hasn't affected the wool type.
"Last year, on full feed, we weaned 85pc, which was a good outcome. We feed for production."
Last year's sale rams averaged 95kg. The 2400-head flock of breeding ewes graze on top-dressed natural pastures which responds well to rain. Lucerne and oats are sown in rotation with some sub-tropical grasses.
"We focus on soft handling fleeces, breeding sheep with well aligned fibres and good crimp.
"Each animal produces a good quality and quantity of bread and butter wool. We grow as much as the sheep produce, economically."
Young sheep are shorn three times in the first 18 months of their lives. Breeding ewes, shorn annually, average 7kg to 8kg fleeces, with yield percentages in the mid-70s. Flock micron ranges from 19.5 to 20.
Recently the stud sold 11-month-old Merino lambs at $220 - cutting $70 worth of wool and $150 for the finished animal.
"With the wool market and the meat market where it is, it's worth investing in finishing lambs."
As a seedstock business with a commercial focus, Bungulla Merinos utilises its own feedlot to finish lambs, using some of the 600-700 tonnes of grain, oats and lupins harvested on farm each year. Hay is also harvested at opportune times.
In 2001, the three-generation family partnership founded Bungulla Shorthorns stud. It came after a longstanding commercial venture, joining Bundaleer Shorthorn bulls to Santa Gertrudis cows and noting the progeny performance.
"When our two sons were born, we decided to diversify our business."
Jock and Angus are now establishing themselves in the industry, ensuring continuity of seedstock breeding for the family business.
Bungulla Shorthorns was established initially on Bundaleer bloodlines, with the strategic purchase of aged cows with calves-at-foot from the stud.
Additional stud cows were purchased at the Erambie Shorthorns dispersal in 2005. Natural breeding using Bundaleer, Moombi and Yamburgan bulls, along with artificial insemination, grew the herd to 200 stud cows.
Those numbers have reduced to 150 stud cows, due to ongoing drought.
"We're happy with the softness and doing ability of our cattle despite the dry times.
"We started with very good quality cows."
While classing the sheep is a visual activity, the business use Breedplan as a guide to cattle selection.
"The structure of the animal and the phenotype still has a lot to do with appearance and appeal, with Breedplan figures used as a guide."
Bulls are sold at a spring sale in Tamworth. Last year saw them sell three bulls for the equal top price of $6000. The Capel family had collected semen from two of these bulls, for use within their own herd. At the 2017 sale, a Bungulla bull sold to the second-top price of $16,000, and the draft averaged $7929.
"The spring sale is a good opportunity for a wide range of people to see our bulls."