Poll Merino potential to boost returns in harsh conditions

A switch to sheep pays-off for Queensland graziers

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Rissmerino stud sheep are performing well in harsh conditions of Qld.

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SUCCESSION PLANNING: Trevor and Alan Rissmann, are third and fourth generation sheep producers and breeders.

SUCCESSION PLANNING: Trevor and Alan Rissmann, are third and fourth generation sheep producers and breeders.

Business Profile

After operating an earthmoving business, a move into cattle nine years ago and the subsequent switching of one property to sheep four years ago is paying dividends for Ian and Gwenda Windsor and their family.

Mr and Mrs Windsor grew up around cattle operations and bought three cattle properties in central western Queensland after selling their business.

But a series of drought years meant these properties were de-stocked at various stages and then consolidated into one main holding, called "Lycullin", near Isisford, which was converted to running Poll Merino sheep for wool and meat production.

The environment was well suited to growing fine to medium wools from sheep that did not require mulesing.

It is a big production and profitability gain if we can get more twins on the ground. - Queensland sheep producer Ian Windsor.

This gave the family a marketing edge for its clip that Mr Windsor said would only become more important in the future.

He said to source genetics initially, they turned to Mitchell-based Well Gully Poll Merino stud. It had a strong reputation for breeding high quality, plain-bodied sheep that performed well in harsh semi-arid and sub-tropical conditions and did not need mulesing.

The Windsors now travel 850 kilometres to source rams from Well Gully daughter stud Rissmerino, run by Trevor and Alan Rissman.

The Rissmanns carry out wide-ranging performance data recording to underpin continual genetic improvement in breeding quick-maturing, dual-purpose sheep with high quality Merino wool that is glossy white and features a deep, bold horseshoe crimp.

Target Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) include traits impacting on fertility, thin skin, high follicle density, growth rates and key carcase attributes.

The result is a Poll Merino that delivers exceptional feed conversion ratios and highly marketable wool for commercial sheep producers, particularly those in harsher Queensland environments.

The Windsors are finding success with this type of sheep.

To optimise the productivity of their flock, they give each ewe only a seven-week - or two cycles - joining window to conceive.

The aim is to get lambs on the ground in June and July, which is the peak of winter paddock feed availability.

Ewes are scanned and separated into mobs to preferentially feed and manage, depending on whether they are carrying singles or multiples.

This year, 39 per cent of ewes were carrying multiples and the aim is to get to at least 50 per cent.

"We find the twin lambs do just as well here as the singles," Mr Windsor said.

"So, it is a big production and profitability gain if we can get more twins on the ground."

Lamb survival rates have been steadily improving, and the average weaning rate hovers around 103 per cent.

"The goal is to get at least 10 per cent more lambs on the ground each year, as this will double our flock every decade," Mr Windsor said.

Sheep are run on native pastures, predominantly comprised of Mitchell, Buffel and other grasses and herbages.

Weaning takes place in spring and - if the season is dry - lambs not being retained for breeding are sold at about four-months-old and at liveweights of about 325 kilograms.

The first shearing occurs in December and the Windsors have shifted to a program of shearing every eight to nine months.

Average flock fibre diameter is 19.5-20-micron for adult sheep and fleeces are heavy-cutting, with a high staple strength and deep crimp.

Mr Windsor said their unmulesed wool was marketed through RW Rural and AWN.

He said, in future, he expected there would be premiums for this wool - as well as this system fitting their philosophy of improving animal welfare outcomes.

Trevor Rissmann and his son Alan are generational sheep breeders who see the commercial value of Merinos.

Their love of sheep breeding was taken to a whole new level in 2018 when they set up Rissmerino.

They purchased the entirety of the Well Gully Poll Merino First Stage Dispersal Sale, which included 1600 stud ewes and sires.

Last year, the stud's Second Stage Dispersal Sale saw the rest of the Well Gully Poll Merino sheep go to Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

"The bulk of the Well Gully flock is now here at Rissmerino and we intend to build on the great legacy that has been created by Errol Brumpton," Alan Rissmann said.

"We continue to produce low input, fertile sheep that reward with survivability.

"We strive to breed long, plain bodied sheep with soft, white, lustrous wool."

The story Poll Merino potential to boost returns in harsh conditions first appeared on Farm Online.

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