A DESIRE to improve their wool quality and increase the overall viability of their flock was the driving force behind Mark and Kylie Wallace's decision to introduce Dohne genetics into their Mt Barker farm.
Mark is the third generation to farm on their property, Wicklow Estate, with his family having taken over the original apple orchard in the early 1920s.
He said that slumps in prices and the changes in climate had seen his family gradually shift from the fruit growing business and focus on production of other crops and meat.
While the farm has always produced meat, it is once again the factors of prices and climate, albeit markets rather than environment, that have had a hand in deciding their most recent foray into breeding Dohne bloodlines into their commercial crossbred flock.
"Our flock is based on a composite ewe flock," Mark said.
"We have kelso ewes bred from Roger House's bloodlines, in Kojonup.
"We had mainly aimed at high production rates and focussed on growth rates in the past."
Mark said this had led to an unchecked increase in their flock micron to an almost downs classification.
"We have been really happy with the kelsos for production, fertility and growth," he said.
"But our wool had blown out to 30 micron, which really is of no value at market."
Wanting to make their management cost for the wool more worthwhile, while also making their whole sheep enterprise more profitable, saw them purchase Dohne genetics from Greg Sounness, Denvale stud.
They did not have to wait long for evidence they had made the right decision according to Mark, with their inaugural year of production already yielding a heavily-reduced micron.
"Our first cross of Dohne, over the crossbred ewes, has dropped the micron to 24," he said.
"This has made a huge difference, it has practically doubled the price of the wool."
The Wallaces wanted to breed a good self-replacing ewe flock with a strong meat and prime lamb focus, but also wanted to be able to have a dual income stream from the wool they were producing.
"We wanted to breed a ewe with a sturdy characteristic, that is easy to maintain and still had a high percentage of lambing," Mark said.
"They are characteristics that both the Dohne and kelso have, with the Dohne also having the superior wool quality."
Having a self-replacing flock also means they mitigate their risk in terms of introduced diseases like Ovine Johnes, footrot and brucellosis.
For Mark the clean face and breech attributes of the Dohne really appealed to his ideas for their sheep breeding after past experiences with other breeds.
"I like clean white points on a sheep," Mark said.
"I like the clean face and clean breech to limit the issue of grass seeds.
"In the past we had a Southdown stud.
"We got out of the breed around 10 years ago as there had been no improvements made in the genetics and they were very woolly in the face and down the legs making them high maintenance.
"It was impossible to get the grass seeds out of them."
Over the years reading the Farm Weekly Mark said he had noticed how many Dohne rams were being sold, yet there was a great disparity in the number of ewes available.
"I knew how popular the breed was and had bought some Dohne ewes in the past," he said.
"But the ewes are so popular they were difficult to source, people retain them and don't sell them and that speaks volumes.
"That's when I realised I needed to breed some myself."
Having attended the Denvale Dohne stud sales in the past and observing the quality of rams Greg breeds, Mark said it was a natural choice when deciding to purchase genetics for their own breeding program.
"It is good to support another local family," Mark said.
"It also helps that the sheep are bred for the environmental conditions, especially the rainfall, we have."
The Wallaces mate 1500 breeding ewes on their 450 hectare property, with around half of these ewes mated to Dohnes for the replacement ewe flock and the other half mated to White Suffolk terminal sires.
This year they also trialled mating ewe lambs, with mixed success mainly due to seasonal conditions.
"The ewe lambs dropped at the beginning of July and the rest of the flock was the beginning of May," Mark said.
"The lambs we have on the ground now are doing really well."
They currently join at a ratio of 2.5 per cent for around six to eight weeks, but are looking to increase the joining percentage in the future to tighten up the joining time in the future.
"We are also looking to preg test in the future," Mark said.
"This will help to reduce the feed cost."
They generally feed hay during the early Summer through to Autumn and then trail feed a mix of oats and barley, but knowing which ewes require the extra nutrition will mean they can manage this better.
This year they achieved 140pc lambing on their best mob of first cross Dohnes, but in general they aim for 125-130pc across their flock.
Shearing takes place in late Spring, anywhere from early to mid October.
Mark said at present it was a bit challenging because they had two different types of wool and looked forward to tightening up the number of lines in their clip.
"But as we progress with the Dohne breeding and get to the one type of wool it is certainly going to improve our fleece," he said.
"It will also decrease the number of oddments and bulk class bales we have, which will certainly help to improve our wool income.
"Plus the Dohnes having the finer, heavier wool will help us cut more kilos compared to the springy crossbred wool."
With their lambs, Mark said they always went through their local Landmark Mt Barker livestock agent, Harry Carroll.
"We are happy to go with the best market at the time, whether that is processors, feedlots or stores," he said.
"Basically wherever the agent feels is best.
"Generally the majority go straight off farm to the processor and for the last couple of years this has been WAMMCO."
Mark said they were really unsure of how their venture into Dohnes would go at first, but were really pleased with how things were turning out and they really looked forward to the future with the breed in their enterprise.