Diversifying the path ahead

Diversifying the path ahead


Sheep
It's all hands on deck at marking time for the Savage family, Kulin. Zach (left), Carly, Seanna, Nic and Brendon Savage had a quick break from work when Farm Weekly dropped by to take a photo in mid-July.

It's all hands on deck at marking time for the Savage family, Kulin. Zach (left), Carly, Seanna, Nic and Brendon Savage had a quick break from work when Farm Weekly dropped by to take a photo in mid-July.

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For the Savage family, sheep farming has always been a staple part of their enterprise, but the diversification of their commercial sheep operation to include Merinos, coincided with their eldest son Nicholas returning to the farm.

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SOMETIMES it is as simple as the enthusiasm of youth and the lure of opportunity that creates the spark and in turn ignites a flame.

For the Savage family, sheep farming has always been a staple part of their enterprise, but the diversification of their commercial sheep operation to include Merinos, coincided with their eldest son Nicholas returning to the farm.

Nic, 18, is the third generation on the family farm, situated 30 kilometres south of Kulin, along with his father Brendon, mother Gabrielle, grandfather Graeme and grandmother Win.

Brendon and Gabrielle also have three other children, Zachary, 17, Carlinea, 15 and Seanna, 10.

Having originally farmed in Williams, Graeme and Win, moved their family to Kulin in 1977, 42 years later and another generation is introducing its own innovations and ideas.

Brendon said it was also a matter of timing and opportunity in more ways than one, with Nic returning to the farm after graduating from WA College of Agriculture, Cunderdin, with fortuitous information regarding the availability of quality stock, along with the discerning choice to mitigate frost risk within their cropping program.

He said after graduating, Nic had been doing lamb marking contracting after developing his own cradle while still at school and it was a pathway he was particularly interested in.

"He is definitely keen on the sheep side and wanted to have a go at developing our own Merinos," Brendon said.

"The experience he had in the job really showed he was interested and will definitely be useful within our own operation.

"We have had a significant crossbred flock for a long time and what we were able to do was quit our older five, six, seven and eight year old sheep.

The 2019 drop of crossbred lambs were ticking along nicely when Farm Weekly visited in July.

The 2019 drop of crossbred lambs were ticking along nicely when Farm Weekly visited in July.

"We were then able to buy in some younger two, three and four year old ewes, from Grant Davenport in Harrismith."

Brendon said this not only resulted in the substantial drop in the average age of their flock, but created the opportunity for the implementation of the Merino program.

It was some timely inside information that led to the purchase of the 1200 Merino ewes, from the Davenports, which also coincided with really great prices in the wool and sheep markets.

Brendon said they were able to sell their older crossbred sheep for $140 a head and then buy in the younger Merinos for $150 a head.

"It was the kind of opportunity you don't pass by," he said.

"The ewes were really good quality and even if we weren't going to breed Merinos they would have been great for our crossbred flock."

The Savage's commercial crossbred flock consists of 2000 breeding ewes this year, reduced from 3200 last year, with the introduction of the Merinos.

Their crossbred flock is made up of a mix of Prime SAMM and Dohne ewes bred to Multimeat rams to produce a composite mother, which is then crossed to a terminal sire for lamb production.

Their mixed enterprise farming operation in a normal year consists of 50:50 ratio of cropping to sheep, on their 5200 hectares of arable land.

"The poor start to the season this year means we probably have around 55pc given over to the sheep," Brendon said.

"Which is the first time in a long time there has been more sheep than crop.

"With the crossbred flock from the 3200 ewes, plus 600 (maiden) ewe lambs we would get around 4500 lambs, depending on the season.

"We are getting a lamb, out of a lamb at just over 12 months of age.

"We would also mate any dry ewes again to have a late August lambing, which meant there were higher numbers."

Brendon said nutrition was the key to these great figures.

Nutrition is the key to great lambing figures according to Brendon Savage.

Nutrition is the key to great lambing figures according to Brendon Savage.

"It is possible to get similar results with Merinos," he said.

"It might be more of a challenge, but with good nutrition it was more than achievable with Merinos.

"I know of someone in Kojonup who is achieving great results with Merinos and it is all about nutrition.

"We also don't want to overstock, because of the land we are on we run a fairly light stocking rate."

For now he is happy to just see how the first year of breeding their Merino flock goes, with their first drop of Merino lambs on the ground.

After their initial purchase of the 1200 Merino ewes, the Savages went on to purchase 20 Rutherglen Merino rams, from Whippy Dawes, last year.

"We thought we would keep on the same bloodline," Brendon said.

"We didn't want massive sheep or small sheep.

"We wanted a nice medium framed sheep, with soft, white wool.

"Whippy's sheep have the reputation for good wool."

It also helped that the shearers found the wool nice to shear, even after a little initial apprehension on the introduction of Merinos to the shed after crossbreds for so long.

Brendon said the type of wool they were cutting and their lambing percentages already this year had been well worth the changes.

"We haven't marked all the Merinos yet," he said.

"But we have marked one of the mobs at 135pc and another at 130pc.

"This so far proves they are fertile too.

"You need the lambs, as well as wool.

"I will say though, it is definitely special to be back into the Merino wool, after such a long time to have it back in the shed is really nice."

Having purchased the ewes spring shorn, they had to shear the Merinos premature to align them for summer shearing.

The summer shearing in late February, is because their contractor wants to complete the shearing before heading to the Nullarbor to do the massive job of shearing at Rawlinna station.

"We lamb from the first week of June," Brendon said.

"We do a teasing of the ewes and only do 30 days joining period to condense the lambing.

"Our crossbreds join at a rate of 1.5pc, while the Merinos are about 1.8pc."

Brendon said the future for them was about building the quality over quantity for their Merino operation and overall sheep entereprise.

"We will carry young ewe lambs through and continue to breed them through the Merino flock," he said.

"We will probably settle at around 1500 Merino breeders.

"We are not interested in running massive DSEs, our focus is to have the right balance between our Merinos and crossbreds."

Brendon said it was great to see the resurgence in the industry and to have so many of the younger generation interested in sheep again.

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