A life surrounded by sheep

A life surrounded by sheep


Sheepmeat
Seventh-generation farmer Wayde Robertson has spent his life surrounded by sheep, particularly Merinos. Pictured with him on their Boyup Brook property is wife Emma and five-month-old son Henry.

Seventh-generation farmer Wayde Robertson has spent his life surrounded by sheep, particularly Merinos. Pictured with him on their Boyup Brook property is wife Emma and five-month-old son Henry.

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Having grown up in Boyup Brook, in an area based strongly on primary industry and particularly broad scale agriculture, this seventh-generation farmer has spent his life surrounded by sheep, particularly Merinos.

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FOR Wayde Robertson life on

the land has always come naturally.

Having grown up in Boyup Brook, in an area based strongly on primary industry and particularly broad scale agriculture, the seventh-generation farmer has spent his life surrounded by sheep, particularly Merinos.

Wayde's parents, Grant and Helen established 'Yalup', a 2833 hectare property in 1977 and today with his wife Emma and five-month-old son Henry, it's a family affair.

"I have always loved working on the land and being outside," Wayde said.

"I don't know any different, however I have always loved the versatility of the work and the pure production of the Merino breed."

The Robertson's own a 70:30 percent livestock and cropping operation and have 7300 mated Merino ewes roaming the paddocks this year.

Wayde said their intention was to increase their self-replacing ewe flock to 8000 head in the next few years.

"Eight years ago we purchased a 405ha blue gum plantation which had been harvested but not cleared yet," he said.

Black tag Merino ewes and their Poll Dorset cross lambs yarded for marking.

Black tag Merino ewes and their Poll Dorset cross lambs yarded for marking.

"We left the stumps to rot for four years and successfully grew pastures to feed our hoggets before removing them."

Despite having had a lower carry capacity, leaving the stumps to rot has been the more cost-effective way for the Robertsons to slowly clear the land.

With it now in peak production, they can increase their replacement ewe numbers with 70pc of their hoggets classed into the 4300 nucleus ewes flock and joined to Merino rams this season.

The family has been on Beaufort Vale Merino genetics for 21 years.

Wayde said the wool production, fertility and frame size, which has transferred through to the lamb carcases on the hooks, were big reasons why they have used the bloodlines for an extended period of time.

"We are fortunate Beaufort Vale stud principal Darren Chapman not only produces great rams, but classes our hoggets in spring and pregnancy scans our ewes in autumn," Wayde said.

The Beaufort Vale rams are joined to the ewes in January at two per cent for a five-week period.

"Darren scans for dry ewes, single and multiple pregnancies," Wayde said.

The Robertsons cull their older dry ewes, with the exception of the maidens in the nucleus flock who get a second chance.

They are moved to being joined to terminal sires.

When it comes to producing prime lambs, the Poll Dorset and White Suffolks are the family's choice of breeds.

Approximately 3000 Merino ewes are classed to the terminal sires.

The Robertson family's new shed was completed before last year's October shearing and they can now fit 1700 full wool ewes undercover on grating at any given time.

The Robertson family's new shed was completed before last year's October shearing and they can now fit 1700 full wool ewes undercover on grating at any given time.

The maidens are joined to White Suffolk rams and the rest to Poll Dorset.

"This year is our first drop of White Suffolk cross lambs," Wayde said.

"We were putting Prime SAMMs over them, however we found the lambs weren't reaching the desired weight quickly enough."

With lambing starting on June 1, Wayde said this season's White Suffolk cross lambs looked promising.

"We lamb our terminal flock down two weeks prior to the nucleus Merino flock, for ease of management," he said.

"Our lambing marking average has been more than 100pc for the past five years and is becoming very consistent.

"This consistency has certainty made life easier when it comes to marketing and selling lambs."

The Robertson family trades 90pc of its prime lambs directly to Western Australian Meat Marketing Co-operative Limited (WAMMCO) and in November last year they were given second and third place in the producers of the month awards.

"We weigh every lamb before its sold," Wayde said.

In early October, at four months old, approximately 20pc of the lambs are sold straight off their mothers with a minimum liveweight of 52 kilograms.

Shortly afterwards 50pc are traded off pasture, with the remaining being sold after being through the feedlot.

"The feedlot lambs are sold in January once reaching 55kg liveweight," Wayde said.

"For management reasons we now shear a month earlier in October and most of the wool is gone by late February."

"The October change, combined with a new shearing shed and shearing team, made last season's three weeks shearing much easier."

The new shed was completed by Peter Cochrane last year and with the old one gutted, turned into storage and refurbished holding pens, the Robertsons can now fit 1700 full wool ewes undercover on grating.

"Earlier this year we redesigned and built our sheep yards using 'Kwikrail'," Wayde said.

"The rail was pressed on site to the required length which made construction quick and simple."

In a normal season the family's hoggets average 17 micron, maidens 18.3 micron and the older ewes record 19.7 micron.

Wayde said his father used to hold onto the wethers for 16 months and get two wool clips off before selling them, but things had recently changed.

"Today they are shorn once in October before being sold as young shippers at five months-of-age, weighing a minimum of 35kg liveweight, with the average weight of 40kg," Wayde said.

"Doing this allows us to run more ewes and therefore produce more lambs."

The uncertainty in the live export market has recently encouraged the Robertsons to trial lotfeeding approximately 600 Merino wether lambs.

Wayde said the idea was to maintenance feed the wethers for six months after shearing before they were shorn again and sold over the hooks.

"We haven't sold their wool clip just yet, however we expect it should cover feed costs," he said.

"The increase in price a head has already covered treatments, labour and made us a profit.

"We should comfortably come out $30 a head in front which has made it a lucrative exercise to continue to do."

The aim is to sell most of the crossbred and wether lambs off before summer, so the family can focus on harvest.

They plant approximately 200ha to canola, 320ha to barley, 200ha to oats and 100ha to lupins.

The Robertsons also grow ryegrass for seed and cut 100ha of rye/clover-based hay annually.

"It all depends on the break of the season but often 60pc of our oats go back into the silos," Wayde said.

"Most of the lupins are kept for supplementary feeding and a small percentage of barley is too."

With two rainfall events occurring in March and some rain and sunshine received over the May to June period, Wayde said their recent pasture growth was not far behind previous years.

"The Merinos are a hard breed to beat," Wayde said.

"The versatility of two good income streams and a buoyant wool market, marks a positive future for us."

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