FARMERS who can re-establish and maintain sustainable pastures and water supplies in the wake of the total cropping and tree plantation cycles of the past decade have a bright future in Australia's wool, lamb and mutton industries, according to WAMMCO's December 2019 Producer of the month, Murray Hall, Purpareena, Tenterden.
Widely regarded as one of WA's top wool producers, Mr Hall was one of the first to shift his annual lambing from May to July/August about 50 years ago as a vital plank in his quest to develop a profitable Merino sheep flock.
"It made a lot of sense then and still enables us to better match feed requirements to needs, to produce more lambs and to keep them and the ewes in better condition," Mr Hall said.
Another decision to mate his older Merino ewes to White Suffolk rams to capture WAMMCO's lucrative markets for prime lamb, is also now paying substantial dividends.
Of the operation's large consignment of 684 lambs processed at Katanning on December 5, 96.3 per cent met WAMMCO's 'sweet spot'.
They weighed an average of 21.69 kilograms to return $152.10 a head.
"To win our Producer of the Month title in December, with a large line of lambs is a major feat," said WAMMCO's Rob Davidson said in announcing the Purpareena win.
"But meticulous care for his animals and proven management techniques with a thirst for feedback, have long been a hallmark of Murray's operation."
The winning lambs were out of a group of 1300 red and yellow tag Merino ewes mated to White Suffolk rams scanned pregnant, that actually dropped 1692 lambs, with a marking percentage of 130.2pc.
These 5.5-6.5-year-old Merino ewes also produced 5.4kg of sound wool, which is pending sale at Fremantle and they have since been sold to WAMMCO for an average of $140.20 a head.
"High, relatively stable returns for our lamb, mutton and wool have been achieved in a year when Purpareena received 392.5mm, about 150mm short of its normal rainfall of 525-550mm," Mr Hall said.
He sees the reclaiming of large areas of former tree plantations for pasture around areas of the South West was a positive sign that sheep farming may be on a rebound.
Murray is scheduled to mate 3800 Merino ewes in February, with 1250 being joined to White Suffolk rams and the remaining 2550 to Merinos.
Producing sound wool remains a key feature of the Purpareena family business, run by Mr Hall, wife Erin, son Anthony and daughter-in-law Lesley.
They are not afraid to hedge their clip when prices are high to protect against uncertainty in the wool market.
Shearing intervals for young sheep are kept less than 12 months apart to ensure the length of staple is kept below 100mm, while this year's wool clip had a slightly higher fibre diameter average of 19.3 micron.
Mr Hall maintains a policy of trail feeding lambs pre-weaning to accustom them to a lupin/oats supplement that will continue as required after they are weaned onto ryegrass/clover pastures.
Milne Feeds' LambGro high protein pellets are then used in a feedlot for about 20 days to bring the lambs up to specification.
All lambs are treated with Buccalgesic pain relief at lamb marking.
"We are spending money at the 'pointy' end of the business to benefit from higher lambing percentages and getting them up to our target weights," Mr Hall said.
"The feedback we get from WAMMCO on how our lambs perform, along with the excellent prices they are achieving on global markets confirm that we must be on the right track."
Mr Hall's grandfather Tom Hall settled with his family in West Kendenup on his return to Australia from South America in 1914.
He worked as a shearer and fencing contractor in the district before investing in a family bush block.