THERE has been no loss of interest in prime lambs since Darrel and Diane Hudson of Yleena Farm, Dowerin, became the first WAMMCO Producers of the Month winners for their area.
That was back in June 2010 with a draft of 232 Poll Dorset-Merino lambs that were also the first in WA to score more than $5 per kilogram at the time, returning just above $125 a head.
Yleena Farm was WAMMCO's Producer of the Month for May, 2019, with a draft of 131 Prime SAMM-Dorper lambs that averaged 23.03kg to return $156.48 a head including skins, with 98.47 per cent of the consignment meeting the co-operative's sweet spot.
Now with his lambs consistently scoring more than $150 a head, and a late, but promising start to the new season, Darrel is in the process of repeating the father-to-son knowledge transfer of farming skills he received from his father Peter.
He will help his own son Peter, who has just left a career as a highly-rated woodworker in Perth to return to the farm with his wife Rhiannan and one-year-old twins.
Peter's return will give Darrel more time to spend on the sheep enterprise, which is currently changing from Prime SAMM-Dorper to Prime SAMM-Merino, following many years of Poll Dorset-Merino breeding.
The extra pair of hands will also assist Darrel to meet the demands of his new role as president of the Dowerin Shire.
"We have never seen the WA lamb industry so consistently strong, and with the wool market confirming that it is finally in positive mode, we can actually plan ahead with confidence," Peter said.
"Whereas record recent lamb prices enable producers to make good money, it is also critical for WAMMCO as our key underwriter, to remain viable."
The reintroduction of a Merino component to the sheep enterprise came after Darrel's decision in July 2017 to sell off 238 Prime SAMM-Dorper ewe lambs after a dry start to the season.
These lambs not only won WAMMCO's Producer of the Month title for that month, they averaged $155.91 a head including skins.
"We later took the opportunity to purchase a line of 400 Merino ewes to lift our wool quality and quantity, mating them to Ejanding Merino rams from local stud breeder Brett Jones," Darrel said.
The Merinos run in tandem with a core Prime SAMM breeding flock of 1000 ewes with rams sourced from Steve Slater's Margan stud at Donnybrook.
Dorper genetics - also from Margan - were discontinued in 2018, to be replaced with a trial of Slaters's Charollais bloodline.
Darrel believes his family has achieved a critical balance with a 50:50 sheep/cropping operation on the 2720 hectare Yleena property.
"Cropping and grazing are well integrated in terms of timing and maximum profit flowing from a combination of later lambing and pregnancy testing, successful erosion and weed control and pasture and fodder crop usage to suit the sensitive sandplain environment," Darrel said.
"Family farmers up here are concerned by a recent flood of investment in farmland by corporate and retirement investment groups.
"There have been cases not only of the new corporate owners ripping out fences and livestock infrastrure, but also of them banning livestock production under the terms of new 'cropping only' lease agreements on offer.
"Having seen the impacts of plantation timber investment and other major adverse changes in farming practice under some forms of corporate management, these practices pose as great if not a greater threat to our livestock industries than vegans and environmentalists.
"Removing livestock from the WA landscape will threaten our processing sector at a time when global demand for livestock products has never been greater."