Butlers build on solid foundations

Butlers build on solid foundations

Sheep
Bruce Rock farmer Callan Butler with sons Ollie and Mason.

Bruce Rock farmer Callan Butler with sons Ollie and Mason.

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The property has been in the Butler family for 103 years.

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AFTER 103 years and generations of farming the Butlers continue to work their family farm at Bruce Rock.

The family has been farming in the area since 1917 after first moving there in 1910.

Now working the property is Chris Butler, son Callan and his family.

Callan is the fourth-generation to farm the property with his young sons Mason and Ollie and daughter Paige being the fifth.

"My grandfather and his brother were pioneers of the town and were the first to get a farming lease of land, before that it was all pastoral leases," Chris said.

"We've been here a while."

The property consists of 2568 hectares, with 2061ha of that being arable land and the family leases another 570ha of arable land.

On the land the Butlers run a Merino flock of 1340 mated ewes, liking the dual-purpose sheep.

"You get the wool and the meat," Callan said.

"When you read about Merinos, they always seem to outperform the crossbreds in terms of dollars and cents."

"It's also good not having to buy in ewes because we can self-replace."

The Butlers run a Merino flock of 1340 mated ewes.

The Butlers run a Merino flock of 1340 mated ewes.

The Butlers calendar of operations puts joining in the middle of January for lambing to occur mid-June.

"We probably lamb a bit later than most people around here but we are trying to lamb onto green feed or that's the idea," Callan said.

When it comes to sourcing their rams, the Butlers use the Morrison family's San-Mateo stud, Brookton.

In addition to their sheep enterprise, the family has a cropping program including wheat, lupins and some barley.

"We also grow oats for hay and some canola if there has been a good early rain," Chris said.

The business runs on a 70 per cent cropping and 30pc livestock ratio and in addition they sow some pasture paddocks.

"We seeded 420ha for sheep feed which is a mix of rye-corn and barley with some canola, lupins, sunflowers and vetch," Callan said.

Shearing is held at two different times of the year.

"We split shear, so our ewes are shorn in December and then we leave the lambs until February," Callan said.

When selling their lambs the Butlers usually sell into the live export market or local abattoir buyers.

"We have actually sent a lot of our lambs over east this year, we had a private buyer from Victoria buy our sheep," Chris said.

"That's because they're restocking over there at the moment.

"In the last two years all our culls ewes have actually gone East as well."

To meet market specifications the Butlers aim to reach a target weight of 35-40kg.

"The ones we sent over East were around 35kg," Chris said.

A lack of rainfall meant the 2019 season was a tough one.

"The season was average, it was actually probably below average for us," Callan said.

"It just didn't rain from July onwards, which was the problem," Chris said.

"The past two or three years have been a bit ordinary out here."

When supplementary feeding their sheep, the Butlers use lick feeders.

"We kept a lot of screenings from last harvest and we'll mix the lupins and the wheat seconds and put them through the feeders," Callan said.

To ensure there is enough feed for their sheep the Butlers have also dedicated some to hay crops.

"We didn't cut as much as we wanted last year but we would've had around 200 square bales, so we are aiming to 400 or more this year," Chris said.

"This year we planted 70ha and we would've done about 50ha last year," Callan said.

The Butlers cull their sheep based on age, shearing, fly-blown sheep and dry ewes.

"Pregnancy testing occurs on the 18th of April and any dry ewes are sold off straight away.

When pregnancy scanning the Butlers look especially for twins.

"We look for twins and singles and split the mobs for lambing," Chris said.

"Forty to 45pc are expected to have twins, so there will be more twins than last year but we are still down on some of our better previous years.

Despite some tough seasons the sheep enterprise continues to grow.

"We have been putting in a lot more maidens over the past couple of years and just culling the older ewes" Chris said.

"We haven't been decreasing our flock, we've been increasing.

Elders stud representative Nathan King helps the Butlers to class their hoggets.

"We are pushing for more body shape at the moment and a bit more size," Callan said.

"Our wool has been getting a bit fine for us, it was around 17-18 microns, so we are trying to get back up to around 19 microns."

The Butlers have found the price of sheep to be beneficial over the past 12 months.

"The past two or three years the price has been good for meat and culls," Chris said.

"Our sheep that have gone over east have brought good money."

The current season has produced another late start and what rain has fallen hasn't been at the right time.

"Up until the end of May we've had around 80mm and 50mm of that was January-March.

"We haven't reached the 100mm mark for the year yet."

The lack of moisture meant all the crops were dry-seeded.

"We didn't really change anything, we planted the same number of hectares that we intended to," Callan said.

With China placing a tariff on barley imports from Australia they cut back on the amount of barley put into the ground.

"We had one lot of fertiliser that was delayed and put us back a fortnight and that was when we took the opportunity to cut back our barley crops," Chris said.

"We don't know if that was the right decision or not because it could all change by the end of the year."

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