Proven formula for crossbred breeding

Proven formula for crossbred breeding

Jess and Brad Alp with their son Scott, three, and some of their mixed age first cross Border Leicester ewes with their Poll Dorset cross lambs at the family's farm in Beermullah.

Jess and Brad Alp with their son Scott, three, and some of their mixed age first cross Border Leicester ewes with their Poll Dorset cross lambs at the family's farm in Beermullah.


"At present our mix is 60:40 with cattle numbers being higher."


FINDING the right recipe and knowing the ingredients and method are proven is the key to success according to Beermullah farmers Brad and Jess Alp at their mixed farming enterprise, Wakedale Farm.

The couple, along with their two children Katie, five, and Scott, three, farm with Brad's father Ron.

Their 1255 hectare Beermullah property was established in 1940, with Brad being the third generation on the farm.

They also have another property in Badgingarra, comprising 850ha.

Both of their properties have about half of the total land being arable, hence their ideal use for livestock grazing.

Producing prime lambs has always been a major part of the Alp's overall enterprise, with their figures being as high as 75 per cent sheep to 25pc cattle.

This dynamic has changed slightly in the past three years, due to seasonal conditions and the markets.

"At present our mix is 60:40 with cattle numbers being higher," Mr Alp said.

"It has just worked out that way at the moment."

The Alp family uses two separate properties to fine-tune lamb production, through breeding their own ewes and rams and creating the right mix for their business.

"We have always used first cross ewes, but we used to buy in hoggets," Mr Alp said.

"When we got the property in Badgingarra we established a Merino flock and bought Border Leicester rams to breed our own first cross ewes."

These first cross ewes are the basis for their prime lamb breeding operation in Beermullah, with the excess portion sold to the Eastern States and South Australia.

The Alps also breed their own Poll Dorset rams and have found them ideal genetics for their operation.

"We purchase one stud Poll Dorset sire a year from the Fairclough's, Stockdale stud, in York," Mr Alp said.

"We really like the Stockdale sheep.

"They work really well on our country."

When selecting the sire to bring into their nucleus flock, the Alps said they relied a lot on the visual aspects.

"We really need sheep with good feet," Mr Alp said.

"The ASBVs are important, but our country requires good feet - even when we are buying our Angus cattle, we need to ensure the feet are good first, before we look at breeding values."

The Poll Dorset breed has the characteristics that suit the Alp's requirements and Stockdale produces the type they particularly like.

"We have tried other breeds in the past," Mr Alp said.

"It was a process of trial and error but we found these sheep are a proven recipe for this area.

"We like the early production of the lamb, the ease of lambing and the fact that they are good mothers.

"The lambs are a fast-maturing, easy care meat sheep - what the market wants."

Their fully self-replacing crossbred ewe flock usually consists of about 1000 head, but due to the season in 2019, this number was down to about 840.

"We do have 240 ewe hogget replacements ready to bring back in already though," Mr Alp said.

They maintain an extended joining period from November 1 through to January 1, with the first lambs on the ground from April 1.

"We run on a ratio of 3pc for rams to ewes," Mr Alp said.

"The ewes are scanned in February and separated into triplet, twin and single mobs of mixed age.

"These are then fed accordingly and the hoggets are run separately.

"But we do not have any orange tags at present, these have all been sold."

The Alps have an average of 110pc lambing, as a 10-year rolling average based on the percentage of ewes mated.

Mr Alp said the five-year average for the ewes at their Badgingarra farm was the same percentage.

Their feed regime is a mix of pellets and lupins, but they also have lupins growing and this year put in 81ha of barley with a disc machine, 34ha of hay and a small amount of serradella, ryegrass and clover, for pasture, but this was mainly utilised by the Angus cattle herd.

"We get a lot of blue lupins in our sandy country over summer," Mr Alp said.

"We also buy in and feed out lupins before lambing as required and supplementary feed with Gilmac 689 high protein pellets."

They have found trail feeding best suits their sheep and utilise loose mineral lick, from November through to April.

Their remaining management tasks are spread out.

"Lamb marking takes place in May for our crossbred flock," Mr Alp said.

"Crutching is in May and everything is shorn in September."

The Wakedale lambs are sold as new season and are targeted at 20-21 kilogram dressed weight.

These are then mainly sold directly to the processors.

"We sell direct to the processors and wherever the market is best," Mr Alp said.

"We target the store lamb market when the seasons work against us."

"We are lucky to have our livestock guys, Nutrien's Greg Wootton and Rhys Hebberman, that are really helpful.

"So too is our wool rep, Brad Groves from West Coast Wools.

"Our cast for age/cull ewes go to Fletchers."

Ms Alp said they had also been selling direct to their local butcher Gingin Premium Meats.

"We started selling direct to the butcher last year," Ms Alp said.

"We sent our first load of the new season's lambs this week.

"It is nice to be able to sell locally and witness the reaction to our product.

"It is good to hear the feedback from the butcher and from others who buy our lamb.

"It has also helped us with cash flow for the business."

The Alps certainly have found the ideal recipe for their operation and they don't plan on changing it anytime soon.

"It works really well in our country and we enjoy producing a good product," Mr Alp said.

"There is huge satisfaction in watching a B-Train full of your sheep leaving the farm driveway.

"We are looking to increase our sheep numbers again in the future and will continue to use the same formula we do now."


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