WHEN the Millsteed family, Daybron Farms, Wongan Hills, became the first prime lamb producers to win WAMMCO's upgraded Producer Of The Month title in July 2016, the winning line of 464 White Suffolk-Merino lambs were some of the first to descend from north of Perth for some time.
WAMMCO's switch to a new 'sweet spot' criteria shifted the judging emphasis to processing and marketing efficiencies from mid-2016, promoting a wider group of producers into the winners' circle.
In July 2016, the Millsteed family's large winning line of lambs averaged 21.28 kilograms with a return of $116.59 per head.
The family's 'Producer Of the Month' title for February 2020 went to a line of 129 lambs processed at Katanning on February 5, that averaged 23.44kg and returned $173.90 per head under a WAMMCO minimum price contract of $7.40/kg for delivery in January/February.
"The price of lamb continues to be a bonus for those of us fortunate enough to benefit from it," said David Millsteed.
"We are looking increasingly to WAMMCO and to the food processing and marketing industry to lead the government in making sure that the delicate balances between supply and demand for quality products such as lamb, are not damaged by the coronavirus pandemic or other unforeseen global threats."
For their part, Mr Millsteed, his wife Robin and sons Bryce, 26, and Mason, 23, continue to maintain a farming balance of 65 per cent cropping of wheat, barley, lupins and hay with a breeding flock of 4800 Merino ewes, of which 1500 are mated to their own White Suffolk rams.
Merino genetics are promoted within the Mocardy Poll Merino stud which the family established more than 15 years ago.
David and Mason (who manages the livestock operation), have welcomed their shift to a July lambing, because of the reduced need for hand feeding and the benefits of a later turn-off of lambs.
They have also embraced pregnancy testing, running smaller flocks and numerous belts of shade trees as upgrades that are also paying dividends for their sheep operation.
Dalkeith clover continues to underwrite their pasture base with the recent addition of Margurita Serradella, while a series of 10, three hectare feeding paddocks, carefully developed with special shade strips, keep pressure off their pastures after germination.
"We have found that lambs need plenty of shade to maintain health and growth rates, especially at critical times of the year," Mr Millsteed said.
The Millsteads are passionate about breeding top quality wool and decided to team their plain-bodied, long-stapled wool Merinos ewes with White Suffolks in their crossbreeding program after a number of years of comparing several breeds.
"The White Suffolks have a more appealing fat content than some of the leaner breeds we were producing a few years ago," he said.
"They are also at the high end of our 95-110 percent average annual lambing and are relatively easy sheep to manage."
Elders Wongan Hills agent Jeff Brennan continues to assist with the breeding and marketing program on Daybron Farms, also assisting with transport for the annual lamb consignments as well as flock replacements.
The Millsteed family has enjoyed a long association with WAMMCO buyer Wayne Radford who has been a personal liaison between WAMMCO and the Millsteeds on their lamb enterprise.
"Bryce is very passionate about cropping innovations and getting the most profit per hectare while not damaging soil properties and Mason is equally as passionate about stock production and the workings of the business side of the farm," Mr Millsteed said.
"I learnt from my father and grandfather that if you do it properly, it's not hard," he said.