Passion drives Lynches at Hyden

Passion drives Lynches at Hyden


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Donna and Tom Lynch out in the paddock with their sheep.

Donna and Tom Lynch out in the paddock with their sheep.

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Passion and consistency have been the keys for Tom and Donna Lynch and their mixed enterprise farm at Hyden.

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PASSION and consistency have been the keys for Tom and Donna Lynch and their mixed enterprise farm at Hyden.

They run a cropping and sheep operation, owning 3000 hectares and leasing a further 2500ha.

Their sheep enterprise consists of 3500 mated ewes, which equates to a 60 per cent cropping and 40pc livestock ratio, with the cropping program made up of wheat, barley and oats.

For the Lynches maintaining a balance is essential.

"We really value the mixed enterprise, so if anything goes wrong with the season we can divert pretty quickly," Donna said.

Farming has run in the Lynch family for 97 years, with Tom's grandfather first establishing the farm in 1922.

Tom returned to the property in 1986, after being away at boarding school and university. Then in 1995 Donna, originally a Wyalkatchem girl, joined him on the farm.

One thing that has remained a constant for the Lynch family over the years is its sheep enterprise.

A love of farming is a big part of what has kept them in the industry for so long.

"We enjoy farming, having both grown up on farms we are pretty passionate about the industry,'' Donna said.

Part of being in the industry for so long has meant they have had to adapt and change with it over the years.

"When I came home, two thirds of income from sheep was from wool and in the past 25 years we've changed that," Tom said.

"Two thirds of income now comes from meat, we were able to make our sheep enterprise more profitable, so that we stayed in stock.

"We switched from pure Merinos to Prime SAMMs, so we've lost a bit in wool cut, but gained in mothering ability and increased our lambing percentage."

As for this year, a dry start to the season is nothing new for the Lynches with Tom describing their season as pretty typical.

"It was a dry start which would've been hard for many," he said.

"When we ran Merinos we lambed in April/May and it is pretty hard to achieve good lambing percentages with a dry start ."

To accommodate for the dry starts in the region, Tom and Donna changed their lambing to July/August.

"This was to keep our lambing and our weaning percentage up so that we're allowing them green feed, but we also put some oat crops in specifically for sheep feed," Tom said.

"It has been a below average year for rainfall, but the crops and pastures are going really well considering, we've been getting just enough rain each month."

Being prepared for the worst-case scenario is critical for every farming business and it is no different for the Lynches.

"It is critical that we plan for a drought every year and just make sure that we have enough grain and hay to carry us through," Donna said.

To ensure they have enough feed in any event they store more than 12 months worth of oats and lupins on farm.

"We are quite prepared to hold 12 months worth of hay as well, we also bale barley straw from the windrows so we have 400 to 500 bales of barley straw on hand each year," Tom said.

The change to their lambing program has meant they have been consistently reaching a lambing percentage of 100pc, with this year looking pretty exceptional.

"Out in the paddocks we have come across a lot of triplets, there's more twins this year than I've ever seen," Tom said.

"Generally we will feedlot our lambs off stubble in February/March and that's just to finish them off, get them up to a good weight, so we tend to try and keep the lambs at foot as long as possible."

When it comes to marketing their lambs the Lynches try and market them from March through to now (August).

"They're nine to 12 months old before we turn them off as heavy lambs, which is working for us in terms of profitability," Tom said.

Sourcing good ram bloodlines is an important part of every sheep enterprise.

"We use a couple of studs, we use Tiarri stud at Lake Grace, for our SAMMs and we use KD genetics at Cunderdin for our Poll Dorsets and also our SAMMs," Tom said.

Due to increasing ewe prices, the Lynches may resort back to a self-replacing flock.

"We are buying in our ewes, if we find a good bloodline that we like, we will mate them to our SAMMs and then keep the F1 ewes out of that," Tom said.

"Now the price of the ewes is going up, a couple of years ago we had to make that decision about if we actually start doing a self replacement flock as well," Donna said.

"So at the moment if there's a good line of ewes up for sale, we will also consider looking at those for replacements."

With the lamb industry at its peak the Lynches are reaping the benefits.

"It's certainly made the sheep enterprise more profitable, than say a cropping legume option, actually our returns per hectare for sheep are getting close to matching where they have to be for our cropping option," Tom said.

"It's good to see the lamb prices where they are, it makes running sheep enjoyable."

While industry prices have continued to break records for the past two years, many are asking how long can this industry high possibly last?

"I am reasonably confident in the meat side of things, with what's happening with the African swine fever outbreak in China, the forecasts are saying that prices should hold up in the medium-term anyway," Tom said.

"I guess it's going to be interesting to see if the east coast starts having reasonable years again, but there's good demand out there and mutton as well as lamb is more recognised as a quality product where I think 20-30 years ago mutton was considered a by-product.

"With the wool side of things it's taken a bit of a hit lately but it's still seeing good prices, I think you have to be aware of what other industries are doing.

"Cotton's pretty cheap so wool has to be aware of where it sits and that probably is one of the worries with lamb and mutton compared to beef, chicken and pork.

"We are probably two to three times more expensive than those other meats, so the customer has to be able to afford the product.

"But things are looking pretty promising I think, for the medium term at least."

Even without the industry doing well, clever marketing over the years helped the Lynches reach those market high prices six to seven years before the recent industry high.

"When our lambs were going down to WAMMCO we were hitting quite a high carcase weight, because we were really targeting the US market, as they were paying a top dollar premium for that heavy carcase," Donna said.

It all comes down to ram selection according to Tom.

"That's how we select our rams on that basis of producing a big carcase, I'm quite happy for them to be 9-10mo than trying to get something that grows really fast and get it off the farm," he said.

"We've really gone away from trying to compete in that sucker market, to grow a heavier weight lamb."

The Lynches understand perfecting a sheep enterprise takes time and patience.

"We want to hold onto that enterprise that we have built up now, because it's taken 20 years to get where we are now," Donna said.

"Where we started to where we are today there's been a lot of trial and error."

"Now, 20 years later, it's all about maintaining standards, because to get back to that standard now of where we are happy with our genetics, what we are producing it just wouldn't be achievable."

Their work and dedication on their sheep enterprise over time has created a consistency which has meant the Lynches have been hitting a sweet spot in the market over the past couple of years.

"We cut off at 48kg then we are still aiming for that two to three fat score and that's where our consistency came into play and last year when we won the Producer of the Year award it was probably because of the consistency of our lambs going through WAMMCO," Donna said.

"So our consistency is now pretty well in that 18-24kg bracket (dressed weight), the fat score as well, we are consistently getting more than 95pc of our lambs into that category," Tom said.

The Lynches have been selling their sheep to WAMMCO for 19 years, believing being part of a co-operative provides not only marketing but guidance and support.

"We have been with the co-operative as shareholders since 2000 when it first started, we see the benefits of being with a co-operative, while prices might not be as high as what you get at the saleyards, you get the bonuses, rebates, support and all the rest of it," Donna said.

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