WAMMCO's Producers of the Month for September 2019 are Jeremy and Jenny James of 'Glenorie', Hyden.
The winners believe their decision 10 years ago to produce only terminal lambs and in 2016 to focus on White Suffolk rams over out-sourced first-cross Prime SAMM and Merino replacement ewes as the basis for an expanding prime lamb business, is now more critical then ever to their family's farming operations.
"We can lock in good budget returns from our prime lambs along with the wool, knowing that the actual result will be within five per cent of our estimates," Mr James said.
"That is a priceless underwriting benefit - particularly with the more disappointing seasons and fluctuating grain prices we are encountering."
The winning consignment of lambs from Glenorie consisted of 122 White Suffolk-Prime SAMM cross lambs processed at Katanning on September 19 and 98.36pc met WAMMCO's "sweet spot."
The lambs averaged 21.42 kilograms and returned $148.71 per head.
The James brothers, Jeremy and Andrew, split their partnership in line with a successful succession plan several years ago with Jeremy and Jenny's enterprise consisting of 4800 hectares.
The brothers have continued a long family tradition in prime lamb production and Murray Grey cattle to stave off the impact of bad seasons and low grain prices.
Mr James said Glenorie was currently weighted 70pc in favour of cropping with a 30pc pasture component evenly divided between 1450 first-cross Prime SAMM and Merino ewes and 100 Murray Grey breeders.
Four hundred hectares of new pasture sown this year, includes Dalkeith clover and Scimitar Medic.
"We watch the lamb, wool and cattle markets closely and could be reducing our cattle numbers slightly in favour of sheep for the first time in many years if the lamb and beef market spread stays high."
He is also supporting WAMMCO's grassfed lamb program as it has developed over the past few years, to meet specialty consumer demand in North America, but is watching to see if a premium price for the product can be achieved to offset the extra costs incurred by producers.
White Suffolk rams have been sourced from the Ledwith family's Kolindale stud at Dudinin and Ross and Nathan Ditchburn's Golden Hill stud at Kukerin and also from the Thompson family's Hedingham stud at Wickepin since they switched the genetic emphasis from Poll Dorsets three years ago.
"Last year, as a means of justifying our decision to pay better money for higher rated rams, we started using our best rams to mate the first drop of ewes for 20 days, before spelling and mating them again to the second drop of ewes, with all mobs mated for six weeks," Mr James said.
Rainfall on Glenorie totalled less that 150mm to the end of September - with only 7mm for September, leaving crop yield estimates at 75pc of average, with many empty dams and a high potential water problem.
"Despite the poor season, we achieved more than 100pc lambs over both drops of ewes which started lambing on April 20 and May 18," Mr James said.
"That is at least 10pc more lambs than we used to get with Merinos and the White Suffolk crossbred lambs quickly reached our 22-24 kg weight targets, making the most of our pastures.
"We are hoping the switch to first-cross Prime SAMM ewes will result in a higher lambing percentage.
"Other White Suffolk attributes were the ease of lambing and less blowfly problems with cleaner heads and tails.
"Not running ewe hoggets and a self-replacing ewe flock, fits well with our farming strategy, while I liken the outsourcing of replacement ewes to the cost of replacing machinery."
Mr James said a policy of being able to manipulate all pasture paddocks to achieve lower cropping costs the following year is almost complete, with 85pc achieved this year.
He will also plant 50ha of the new grazing wheat variety 'Illabo' to boost next years' early winter grazing capacity given March/April rains.
Mr James welcomed the recent news that WAMMCO was offering a $7.40 per kg minimum price contract for crossbred lambs delivered in January 2020 as a good basis for producers to carry lambs forward.
He has retained half his 2019 lamb production, (about 700 lambs) on stubbles for delivery to Katanning in early 2020.
Like most producers, his worst fear is that animal activists will increase their pressure on the livestock and farming industries.
"Vocal minorities have no understanding of farming and are a rapidly increasing threat to our industry," Mr James said.