A QUICK growing prime lamb is what the Butler family aim for with their sheep enterprise at South Kumminin.
Clint Butler is the fourth generation to run the 4000 hectare farm, alongside parents Kim and Sue.
Of the land, 3000ha is used to run their cropping enterprise, including lupins, oats, wheat and barley as well as some pasture varieties, with the remaining 1000ha being used for his 1000 head of breeding ewes.
Of his flock, 600 of the ewes are mated to crossbreds and 400 are mated to Merinos.
Mr Butler uses three different breeds to cross with his Merino ewes - Poll Dorsets, White Suffolks and Black Suffolks.
And he sows Serradella, Biserrulla, vetch and Bladder clover pasture varieties for extra sheep feed.
"It's good for putting nitrogen back into the soil and means I can sell some of my pasture," Mr Butler said.
Joining of the crossbreds occurs on September 20 for lambing in mid-February and the Merino rams are put with the Merino ewes on October 15 for the lambs to drop in March.
The early mating occurs so that the lambs can be sold in early markets before the price drops and it also meant the lambs drop onto more feed/stubbles.
"Once everyone starts selling the price crashes, so we try to get in early to get those higher prices," Mr Butler said.
"If the season turns really bad we've got time to offload them.
"I also find there's more feed in the stubbles at that time of year."
This also meant the Butlers could focus on their cropping program at seeding time and the lambs don't get carried over the summer.
Because lambs drop during the hot summer months the Butlers ensure there is plenty of shade and water available.
Mr Butler said his goal was to produce lambs that grew quickly to make it into those early markets.
He started with White Suffolks and had recently started trialling Black Suffolks.
"I have found this year the Black Suffolk lambs have gone to wool a lot more than the White Suffolks and Poll Dorsets," he said.
For the first time in 10-15 years, Mr Butler also bought in some Poll Dorsets.
"It'll be interesting to see how they perform," he said.
Mr Butler has been sourcing rams from Nick Cheetham's Cheetara stud, Narembeen, since the stud's inception.
When selecting Merino rams, sourced from the Hooper family's Wanjalonar stud, Narembeen, the Butlers look for long, deep bodied rams with bright, showy, white, evenly crimped wool.
Mr Butler said when buying his crossbred rams he looked for deep bodied sheep with excellent eye muscle and a large hindquarter, as well as smooth shoulders and good body fat.
The Butlers have pregnancy scanned in the past and although he is not doing it now he said he would look at scanning again in the future.
"We weren't finding that many dry ewes," he said.
"And when we have done scanning for multiples I was finding twins in the singles mob and vice versa."
The lamb were generally sold to WAMMCO at a minimum of 43 kilograms liveweight.
"This year the Poll Dorsets looked the best and weighed accordingly," Mr Butler said.
Though he tries to sell into the earlier markets Mr Butler said the dry starts to the season were making it more difficult.
To help the lambs during the winter months and after shearing they were put into a paddock with shelter from the elements.
This meant body fat on the lambs became important.
This season has been a dry one and the Butlers have received only 130 millimetres of rain for the growing season.
They usually run about 1400 head of breeders but due to the drier seasons they reduced their numbers, sending the older ewes to Fletchers.
"We just aren't getting those early breaks so we are having to hand feed for longer," Mr Butler said.
When supplementing his sheep during the feed gap Mr Butler uses lick feeders and also trail-feeds Milne Feed pellets into troughs in the paddocks.
Despite a tough season Mr Butler said he had seen his highest lambing rates with Merinos and crossbreds averaging 120 per cent.
"It's amazing," he said.
"I think the pivotal thing is having your ewe at joining time in the best condition possible.
Shearing of the crossbred lambs is in July and the Butlers cut an average of 60-70 bales annually.
Mr Butler enjoyed high prices for meat over the past 12 months, receiving $160-$220 for mutton.
"It's sensational, if I could get $8 per kilo every year for lambs I'd be very happy," he said.
When it comes to culling, any dry ewes, excepting maidens, are sold straight away.
Then after shearing they sell the oldest age group of ewes and any ewes which may have health issues.
As for improvements, a benefit of the high sheep prices is that it has allowed the Butlers to purchase some new sheep yards.