Enthusiastic next generation of producers

Enthusiastic next generation of producers


Sheep
Hyden mixed farmers Mitch (left) and Lachy Mouritz are bringing a burst of energy to the management of their family's Merino enterprise.

Hyden mixed farmers Mitch (left) and Lachy Mouritz are bringing a burst of energy to the management of their family's Merino enterprise.

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Fourth generation producers Mitch and Lachy Mouritz are delivering a burst of energy to the Merino enterprise at their family's mixed enterprise.

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FOURTH generation producers Mitch and Lachy Mouritz are delivering a burst of energy to the Merino enterprise at their family's mixed enterprise based out of Hyden, but which spreads to properties at Karlgarin and Lake King.

Since the boys returned home to join parents Kent and Carol there are dreams of growing the Merino side of their business.

"When I first came home the split between crop and sheep was probably a bit more even than it is now," Mitch said.

"It's changed a bit since then and now it's more predominantly cropping, but our sheep numbers have also increased in the past three years so now it's probably more back to 70 per cent crop to 30pc livestock."

Kent also runs an earthmoving business so between the three enterprises, the family is kept busy year round and while the sheep constitute a smaller portion of the business, Mitch said the family was keen to focus more time on the Merinos.

Lambing results differ from year to year, but are usually around the 90pc mark with Mitch saying their investments into ewe nutrition were starting to pay off.

Lambing results differ from year to year, but are usually around the 90pc mark with Mitch saying their investments into ewe nutrition were starting to pay off.

"There didn't used to be as much emphasis as there is now on things like nutrition, lambing and stocking rates, but because nowadays the sheep are worth a lot more money, we can afford to spend more time on those things," Mitch said.

"In fact, since Lachy is back home now too, I've been spending my time pretty evenly between the sheep and cropping."

As it currently stands, the family runs a Merino ewe flock of about 4500 head, of which 3000 are mated back to Merinos and 1500 to White Suffolks from the Ledwith family's Kolindale stud, Dudinin.

It's a long-standing relationship between the Kolindale stud and the Mouritz family which has stood for about 40 years.

"When I started looking after the sheep in the early 1990s I didn't know much about them so Colin Lewis (former Kolindale stud principal) used to come out and help us," Kent said.

"Back then, a lot of people were chasing heaps of skin and the shearers didn't like it very much but the style of Merino has changed a bit since then.

"Since Luke (Ledwith) has taken over the stud we've continued to be happy with the quality of Merinos and now White Suffolks we can get from them."

There's also a preference to support a young stud breeder having a go.

Mitch said the goal is to increase numbers by an extra 1000 ewes in the Merino mating, indicating a long term trust in the profitability of Merinos within a mixed enterprise out in the eastern Wheatbelt.

Mitch said the goal is to increase numbers by an extra 1000 ewes in the Merino mating, indicating a long term trust in the profitability of Merinos within a mixed enterprise out in the eastern Wheatbelt.

"It's good seeing young guys come into the Merino industry and stick with it, I think we need more of that," Mitch said.

"So we're happy to support the family going forward because the sheep they're producing are really good and at the end of the day supporting a young guy coming through the industry is a bonus."

When talking specifics, Kolindale genetics have delivered on heavy cutting ability in the Mouritz Merinos.

"Volume is king, no matter what you're doing, whether it's cropping or wool," Mitch said.

"By being here in the eastern Wheatbelt, we're not too caught up in growing super fine micron wool, so long as we're cutting heavily we're happy - our main focus is kilos."

The results speak for themselves, with Mitch saying their adult Merino flock was typically cutting between 6-8kg per head and after moving their shearing time from autumn to October, they hope to continue improving yields which had previously been impacted by dust and so on at autumn shearing.

"So we've been happy with what we're achieving with Kolindale though we hope to keep working on wool cut and yield," Mitch said.

There is also a goal to increase numbers by an extra 1000 ewes in the Merino mating, indicating a long term trust in the profitability of Merinos within a mixed enterprise out in the eastern Wheatbelt.

"Obviously we're focused on profitability, but we've got to improve our efficiency so that will be something to work on as we look at increasing our numbers," Mitch said.

"We have found having sheep at south east Hyden and at Lake King as well, the management gets stretched and though you try your best, you just can't be everywhere.

"With the lack of rain through the lakes this year, we actually didn't have any water at our Lake King property, so we cleaned out all the dams out there and moved some sheep back here to Hyden which means we're probably running a few too many at the moment.

"So we're always looking for more dirt, both for cropping and sheep, which I guess is an easy attitude to have when you're young and a bit risk averse."

The cropping and livestock sides of the business go hand-in-hand from their perspective too.

"In the past four or five years we've done at least 200-250 hectares of sown clover and a full manipulation after that which is great for the sheep but also a weed management strategy for the crop too," Mitch said.

"The sheep also go onto the stubbles although we keep them off the heavier clays we are starting to chemical fallow, so there's a bit of management there but in terms of the role of sheep in the cropping rotation, especially in the eastern Wheatbelt, I don't know how people do without it.

"It's much more profitable to be running sheep because the weeds are growing there for free and in addition to managing those, if we get the nitrogen benefits of sowing clover then that's a good thing for us."

Utilising a chaff cart following harvest has been adding another benefit to that weed management plan over the past few years, with the Mouritz family finding the Merinos get through the chaff dumps effectively.

"We didn't even factor in the benefits to the sheep when we bought the chaff cart, but we've since found that especially the weaners just hammer the piles," Mitch said.

"They don't even bother walking around the paddock looking for food, they go between the dumps and the dam and their weight gain has improved significantly in comparison to just going out on stubble.

"And we're also getting on top of the seed bank too which I've noticed more this year.

"The weeds aren't coming away as much after the rains now because the seed banks are starting to get low."

Pleasant surprise benefits of the chaff dumps aside, the Mouritz family still has a lot of feeding to do most years.

"A lot of grain went down their throats this year," Kent said.

There is enough storage on farm to keep their own feed grain and by investing in some quality self-feeders, the Mouritz family has seen improvements in mismothering by doing away with trail feeding.

"We spent a fair bit of money and now we have 11 of those big Moylan feeders, one to each mob of sheep and the management is so much better now," Mitch said.

"I don't know how we did the trail feeding for so long, it takes up so much time and when you're lambing you run into problems with the sheep chasing you and leaving lambs behind.

"So we've got a mixed ration which goes into the feeders and it's worked really well - we're saving ourselves heaps of time and the ewes are fat, happy and content, not running away from their lambs."

Lambing results differ from year to year, but are usually around the 90pc mark and Mitch said investing more into ewe nutrition in the form of self-feeders was a win-win.

"It's a double barrel if the lambs and ewes are under less pressure," he said.

"The results are more healthy lambs to sell and better quality wool to cut from the ewes."

When asked what excites them most about the Merino industry, Mitch said strong prices in both the sheep and wool markets meant there were more opportunities to reinvest.

"Reinvesting in sheep is something that will happen more which probably didn't happen on the same scale before because prices were so low," he said.

"So people in the industry are now willing to spend good money on good facilities because the money is back in it."

With a bunch of new self-feeders, new yards and a new wool press, the Mouritz family is already sinking money back into its sheep business.

"I think we're doing alright in terms of reinvesting, though there is probably some fencing to do still," Mitch said.

"But it's definitely exciting to see the sorts of prices we're seeing at the moment but hopefully we can see prices settle at a sustainable level for our processors here in WA so farmers can make the most of good prices in the long run."

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