Sheep deliver diversification at Munty

Sheep deliver diversification at Munty

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Michael Wanless and youngest daughter Sienna with one of their pet lambs.

Michael Wanless and youngest daughter Sienna with one of their pet lambs.

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The children enjoy being involved in the sheep work.

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MUNTADGIN sheep producer Michael Wanless enjoys working the sheep side of his farming operation.

Mr Wanless runs the farm with wife Carissa, son Jack and two daughters Ava and Sienna.

The farm is 6000 hectares and has 2500 Merino breeding ewes which are crossed with White Suffolks.

It is a 75 per cent cropping and 25pc livestock split.

The cropping enterprise consists of canola, wheat, barley, oats and lupins, as well as some pastures such as Serradella.

While the cropping side is bigger, both of the enterprises go hand-in-hand, with the crops providing feed for the sheep and the sheep helping to control weeds.

"The lupin crops also help to put some nitrogen back into the soil," Mr Wanless said.

When it comes to lambing he said they split their flock into two mobs, with some ewes starting to lamb in March and the rest lambing in July.

This means joining occurs in November and then at the end of February.

All their Merino ewes are bought in and they buy lines surplus to requirement from other studs, keeping the bigger sized ewes.

The family has sourced its rams from the Cheetham family's Cheetara stud, Narembeen, for seven years.

Mr Wanless said they had always had Merinos on the farm, but trying to run a self-replacing flock and meat flock wasn't getting the best out of either, so they focused on the meat side of sheep, which is why they breed a crossbred lamb.

With the rams and the lambs getting bigger, Mr Wanless said they were looking for rams with smaller shoulders to help the ewes at lambing.

He said the reason they run crossbreds was because purebred Merinos took too long to grow out, whereas White Suffolks could be put in a feedlot for four to five weeks and they were ready to go.

At shearing, on a nine-month rotation, they cut an average 5.5kg per head for about 100 bales.

In the past two seasons Mr Wanless said they didn't receive early rains in March-April to get feed growing, meaning they had to feedlot some of their ewes so the pastures could establish.

As a result they are looking at moving their lambing to later in the year so that the lambs can drop onto green feed.

This year, due to the dry season and late break some of the pastures started to put out seed early.

"I don't want to kill the pastures because I won't have anything to feed the sheep, but the pasture is the best way to clean up paddocks for the next year's crop," Mr Wanless said.

A wind storm earlier in the year meant they had to reseed 30-40ha of their crop.

"We weren't the worst affected but we did have to go back and reseed some areas just to get some cover on the paddock," he said.

Rainfall this year was enough to establish the crops, but heavy rain is needed to fill the dams.

"We have been OK out here, we're in a lucky strip, but it does need to keep coming," Mr Wanless said.

When supplement feeding, they use lick feeders and the dry seasons have forced them to feed for longer, particularly over summer.

"As much as we hate summer green growth, sometimes it is actually a good thing," he said.

Although wool prices have dropped Mr Wanless is confident the market will recover and said the meat prices have been holding up well and were where they need to be.

"You need to be getting reasonable money otherwise unfortunately you're going to see a lot more people going out of sheep," Mr Wanless said.

When culling, ewes that are six and a half years of age are sold along with any dry ewes, except the maidens, which get a second chance if they're dry.

"We try and cull to keep it an even looking mob," he said.

In terms of performance, while the cropping side is larger the sheep operation does well and is a good source of income, especially in tight seasons.

"It's good to have both enterprises for some diversification and with prices being high the sheep have done well," Mr Wanless said.

An added benefit of having the sheep is that it means the children can be involved in the farm work.

"They have a few pet lambs at the moment," he said.

As for future improvements, Mr Wanless said it was hard to make improvements to a flock when they were all bought in.

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