AFTER finishing second for the past two years in the WAMMCO Producer of the Year awards, the Lucchesi family, Kulin, went one better this year and last week claimed the top honours for the 2020/21 competition at Katanning.
The 2020/21 awards marks the fifth time the awards have been presented, after they replaced the State Prime Lamb Carcase Competition.
They were introduced to enable more WAMMCO suppliers to be eligible for recognition.
WAMMCO supply and development manager Rob Davidson said the awards were designed to enhance the efficiencies at all levels of the WAMMCO business.
"That means efficiencies through supply, the plant and marketing of the product," Mr Davidson said.
A carcase with a dressed weight of 18.1 to 28 kilograms with a fat score of 2-3 is the ideal carcase or the sweet spot WAMMCO is looking for as a processor but it also has to be defect-free.
Mr Davidson said that meant it couldn't be overfat and had to be free of ovis, pleurisy, grass seeds, arthritis and dog bites.
"It is also critical as a processor we have lambs to process all year round, as we have markets that need supplying all year and these awards recognise producers who can supply throughout the year," he said.
"There is an allocation of 20 per cent of the points for lamb supply too, with points weighted to lambs delivered outside the traditional spring flush period when it is easy to supply lambs."
Over the five years of awards WAMMCO has distributed more than $125,000 in cash, meat eskies filled with WAMMCO lamb and donated product to winning producers.
Producers who supply a minimum of 250 crossbred or Merino lambs to the co-operative each financial year are automatically entered and their lambs are assessed at the point of slaughter.
Entries receive a score out of 100 with 80pc of the points assigned to the percentage of defect-free carcases in the prime 18.1-28kg carcase weight (CWT), fat score 2-3 range, while the remaining 20pc of the points are for timing and volume of shipments.
More points are awarded to larger consignments delivered outside the spring flush period, so if a producer delivers more than 400 lambs in each of four quarters they can achieve a maximum 20 points for delivery.
Mr Davidson said this year 701,493 lambs were assessed for the awards from 510 members from across the State from Geraldton in the north to Esperance in the south east.
"Of all the lambs assessed for the 2020/21 awards 78.5pc hit the sweet spot for WAMMCO when it came to carcase weight, fat score and defect-free carcases, but there was a range from 4.6pc to 98.8pc, with many of those at 4.6pc either heavyweights or fat score four," he said.
Last year in the competition 636,044 lambs were assessed from 555 members and 82pc hit the sweet spot.
There were again five categories in the awards for this year's competition, three crossbred sections and two Merino sections.
The crossbred classes were for small (250-999), medium (1000-2199) and large (2200 plus) lines of lambs, while the Merino categories were small (250-749) and large lines (750 plus) only.
This year the winner and second placed in each category walked away with a cash prize and a WAMMCO meat esky, while third placegetters received a meat esky.
The overall winners in each category also won product from sponsor Zoetis.
When Sergio, Mary, Michael and Alison Lucchesi, SD & MT Lucchesi, were announced the winners of the large crossbred supplier section of the awards it meant another new name was added to the Judy Cameron Memorial Producer of the Year trophy.
The Lucchesi family, who have been running a prime lamb operation since 2000 and supplying WAMMCO since 2010, took first place in the large crossbred lamb supplier section with 6187 crossbred lambs averaging 22.88kg that gained 92.68 points, 1.96 points in front of the second placegetter in the section.
The lambs supplied to WAMMCO by the Lucchesi family were a mix of owner-bred and purchased in lambs, which they start to buy from the end of October each year.
Michael Lucchesi said their prime lamb enterprise makes up 20-25pc of their operation on their 6880 property and another 3640ha of leased land and they run it with the support of workers Paul Bailey and George Rowe.
The family aims to join 2500 to 3000 Merino ewes annually to Poll Dorset and White Suffolk sires from the Narembeen-based Cheetara stud.
Mr Lucchesi said they purchase in their Merino ewes with the assistance of Westcoast Wool & Livestock's Lincon and Barry Gangell and Jane Bushby.
"When we buy our ewes they have to be large-framed and roomy," Mr Lucchesi said.
The Lucchesi's flock lambs in March/April and the lambs are weaned in June/July depending on the season.
Mr Lucchesi said if it was a good season they stay on the ewes a little longer and they try to sell them as suckers if they are in the right condition.
"Last year we weaned our lambs in mid-July onto good pastures as the season was tight and then they went onto our stubbles when they became available before being finished in our feedlot on a barley/lupin ration," he said.
"We put them in the feedlot at 42kg liveweight and turn them out at a minimum of 48kg liveweight.
"The first line went into the feedlot last year at the beginning of December and we started selling them at the start of January and we sold them right through until July.
"If they are not in the feedlot they are either on pastures or stubbles."
Mr Lucchesi said along with using the Westcoast Wool & Livestock team to source both their ewes and extra lambs to feed, they also used it to help with bookings for WAMMCO.
With a better season this year the family didn't wean their lambs until the end of July/early August and as a result have already sold 1500 head straight off their mothers.
Finishing second in the large crossbred category were Ken and Viv Hoey, KD & VG Hoey, Esperance.
They delivered 7011 lambs averaging 21.42kg that gained 90.72 points.
Mr Hoey said all the lambs they sold to WAMMCO were purchased from the Katanning saleyards and fed in their feedlot.
"We buy lambs all year and feed them," Mr Hoey said.
"We want lambs with a good frame that we can add value to."
In the Hoeys' feedlot the lambs are fed a barley/lupin ration and they can be in there from two to six weeks depending on their weights.
Mr Hoey said their aim was to sell the lambs at 45-50kg liveweight to WAMMCO.
Along with buying in lambs and lotfeeding them, the Hoeys also purchased 3000 mutton units last year and fed them before selling them to WAMMCO.
Third in the large crossbred supplier section for a second year running was the Heggaton family, Evergreen Grazing Co, BreederBEST Genetics, Kojonup, with 10,400 owner-bred lambs averaging 22.86kg that totalled 86.67 points.
The Evergreen Grazing Co lambs, which were mainly July drop, were out of first-cross Prolific and Kojak ewes bred from the BreedersBEST Genetics bloodlines and sired by Sherwood Poll Dorset and White Suffolk rams, also bred by the Heggaton family.
This year (2021) Evergreen Grazing Co joined 8500 ewes and marked 12,900 lambs.
Craig Heggaton said they usually started weaning their lambs in mid-October and tried to sell as many as they could as new season lambs.
"Last year we sold 5000 new season lambs from late October through to the first week of December," Mr Heggaton said.
The lambs which aren't sold as new seasons are run on stubbles and then put through a feedlot where they were fed Kojonup Feeds' pellets.
The Heggatons put their lambs into the feedlot at 39kg liveweight and they are usually in it for three to four weeks before being sold at 52kg liveweight.
Mr Heggaton said usually they start selling out of the feedlot at the beginning of January and the last line is gone by May.
Dowerin operation Yleena Farm, owned and operated by Darrel, Diane, Peter and Rhiannon Hudson, this year won the medium crossbred supplier category.
The Hudson family supplied 1278 lambs averaging 21.77kg to WAMMCO and finished on 90.68 points.
The Hudsons run first-cross Prime SAMM-Merino ewes based on Margam Farm Prime SAMM and Ejanding Merino bloodlines and they are joined to Prime SAMM and Charollais rams sourced from the Margam Farm stud.
Darrel Hudson said the lambs were dropped from the end of June and through July and the majority were weaned in October on to a lucerne stand.
"We sold the first line of last year's lambs in December and the last line went at the beginning of June," Mr Hudson said.
"As we got an early rain in March this year the lucerne really took off so we had to only put the last line through our feedlot.
"Most of them we were able to get up and sell off the lucerne with some supplementary feeding (oats and barley)."
The Hudsons aim to sell their lambs at a minimum of 48kg liveweight and Mr Hudson said usually they aimed to get off 200 to 300 lambs at a time for ease of trucking.
Second place in the medium crossbred supplier section was the Noble family, SR & JE Noble, Kulin.
The Nobles achieved a score of 87.35 points for the 1115 lambs averaging 21.22kg they supplied WAMMCO.
Simon Noble said the majority of the lambs he supplied to WAMMCO were bred on the property but he also purchased some to fatten.
The Nobles' homebred lambs were out of Merino ewes and by Poll Dorset and UltraWhite rams.
"I mainly buy in 5.5-year-old ewes, mate them early so they lamb down in March," Mr Noble said.
"I just get one lamb out of them and then try to get them sold again when there is not much mutton on the market."
Last year the Nobles sold a couple of lines of their lambs straight off their mothers in November, while the rest were fattened on stubbles and sold in February and March.
The Nobles use Lincon Gangell from Westcoast Wool & Livestock to help with booking their lambs into WAMMCO.
With a better season this year, Mr Noble said they have already sold all their lambs this year straight off their mothers in September and October.
Just 0.01 points behind the Noble family and claiming third place in the medium crossbred category on 87.34 points were Tom and Donna Lynch, Limeric Enterprises, Hyden, who won the competition in 2017/18.
The Lynchs supplied 1629 lambs to WAMMCO averaging 22.62kg.
The Lynches lambs were out of Merino and first-cross Prime SAMM ewes and by Tiarri Prime SAMM rams and KD Genetics Poll Dorset rams.
Mr Lynch said their lamb enterprise was set up to supply lambs to WAMMCO at the off peak time to capitalise on the higher prices.
"We lamb in August and then wean our lambs on to stubbles in January," Mr Lynch said.
"By lambing in August it means we don't have to hand feed lambing ewes and we can keep our grain and use it to feedlot the lambs so we can sell them in the off season.
"We finish our lambs in our feedlot on a mixed grain ration and ab lib hay."
The Lynchs start putting their lambs into their feedlot in March and then sell them to WAMMCO from April to July.
"They go in at 45kg liveweight and our aim is to turn them out at 50kg plus," Mr Lynch said.
"When we sold our lambs this year they sold between 820 to 850 cents a kilogram dressed."
The winner of the small crossbred supplier category was Blewett Farming Partnership, Kojonup.
The Kojonup enterprise claimed the award after finishing on 84.30 points for the 871 lambs they supplied to WAMMCO which averaged 22.33kg.
Second place in this category went to Scott, Odile, James and Ash Welke, Westwood Farms, Cascade, when they achieved 83.13 points for the 822 lambs they supplied averaging 23.04kg.
The lambs sold by the Welkes were purchased from a Boyup Brook producer as stores and grown out.
Scott Welke said it would not be something they would normally do, but it was a result of how the season turned out.
"We had set up our pastures in 2019 for our ewes and lambs but when 2020 didn't start well season wise we sold a number of ewes to the Eastern States," Mr Welke said.
"Then the season turned around in the spring and we had heaps of feed so we purchased these lambs to capitalise on it, rather than letting it go to waste.
"The lambs ran on the pastures until the stubbles became available and then we turned them on to them."
The Welkes sold about 500 head straight off the stubbles in early March, while the remainder were put on feed in a feedlot for about four weeks before being sold.
Mr Welke said they could have sold the first line earlier but they kept hold of them for a bit longer because they had the feed.
Third place in the small crossbred supplier category went to the Robertson family, CJ & CV Robertson, Kulin, on 83.06 points
The Kulin enterprise supplied 254 lambs which averaged 22.81kg.
The lambs were sired by White Dorper and Dorper rams from the Kaya and KD Genetics studs and out of first-cross Prime SAMM-Merino ewes based on Tiarri and KD Genetics Prime SAMM and Eastville Park and Quailerup West Merino bloodlines.
The mid-April drop lambs were sold straight off their mothers to WAMMCO.
Like the crossbred categories this year there wasn't much separating the placings in the two Merino categories.
The number one position in the large Merino supplier section was secured by Brad, Sylvia, Lach and Hannah Patterson, Bullock Hills Pastoral, Woodanilling.
The Pattersons supplied 2583 owner-bred Merino wether lambs averaging 22.45kg to WAMMCO in 2020/21 and they finished on a score of 91.90 points to take first place.
The family joins 4500 ewes annually to homebred Merino rams that they breed in a nucleus flock which has an infusion of genetics from Moojepin.
Lach Patterson said they have been using Australian Sheep Breeding Values in their nucleus flock for several years.
"We are not only using them to keep pushing growth rates, fleece weight and reproduction, but increasingly we are paying attention to improving health traits and the range of carcase and eating traits as well," Mr Patterson said.
The Pattersons use multiple joinings to drop their lambs from May to July and then they are weaned at 12 weeks.
From next year they will move to a 25 day joining in January for the entire flock.
In the past the Pattersons supplied the majority of their lambs to WAMMCO mainly through autumn and early winter, but they are now starting to turn the heaviest lambs off in spring.
"This year, due to a good season, we sold anything that was more than 44kg liveweight off grass in October, with another draft to go during harvest," Mr Patterson said.
"The balance will go on to stubbles as soon as they become available and will be finished on grain in our feedlot next year in May-June.
"Selling lambs in May-June has traditionally been excellent for cash flow and to capitalise on stronger prices for lamb at that time of the year."
Mr Patterson said their ultimate aim going forward was to turn more lambs off as a post-weaning spring lamb, but this will always be season dependent.
The lambs that go into the feedlot for finishing are fed a cereal and lupin blend with additives and are given homegrown pasture silage.
"We usually put them in the feedlot in their final two to four weeks, entering at about 42kg liveweight and sell them once they hit a minimum 48kg liveweight," Mr Patterson said.
To ensure they are getting the best out of their lambs irrespective if they are being sold in the spring or the autumn the Pattersons shear them about one to two months before sale.
Second place in the large Merino supplier category went to Gordon, Julie-Ann, Philip and Rachael McLean, RJ McLean & Co, Lake Biddy, on 85.23 points.
The McLeans supplied 1427 Merino lambs which averaged 22.71kg.
The family also finished sixth in the large crossbred supplier category, having supplied 3715 lambs averaging 24.04kg and recording 82.64 points, making it the only enterprise to achieve two top 10 finishes.
Annually the McLeans join 4000 ewes to Merino rams from the Dunwell's Ronern flock and 3000 Merino ewes to Suffolk rams from the Jusak stud.
Philip McLean said their lambs were dropped from mid-July through to the end of August and were weaned in November onto their stubbles.
"We start feeding the crossbred lambs in March a barley/lupin ration in the paddock and the Merinos are fed barley/hay to get them up to sale," Mr McLean said.
"Last year we fed 700 crossbred lambs in a feedlot while the rest were just on feeders in a paddock.
"Our aim is to sell the lambs through May and June."
Wongan Hills operation P & WM Kelly finished third in the larger Merino supplier category on 85.04 points after supplying 983 lambs averaging 23.07kg to WAMMCO in 2020/21.
The final category - small Merino supplier - was won by Ken and Mary Siegert and their son Tim and Ken's brother and sister-in-law Rod and Lousie, KJ & RP Siegert, Wongan Hills.
The Siegerts finished on 86.53 points after delivering 653 Merino wether lambs averaging 22.79kg to WAMMCO.
The family joins 2000 ewes to Poll Merino rams, which are sourced from the Manunda stud, Tammin.
The operation lambs in June/July and then the lambs are usually shorn and weaned at the end of September/early October.
The wethers are then run on barley stubbles before being shorn in June and sold at about one-year-old in July/August.
Last year they sold their 2019-drop wethers over three drafts from July 28, 2020 to August 19, 2020.
Their first line of 309 head averaged 23.02kg dressed and $184 a head, while the second line of 144 averaged 22.9kg dressed and $183.
The final line of 200 averaged 22.35kg dressed and $161.
Second place in this category went to Al Whyte and son Brendan, AJ & TJ Whyte, Kondinin, who supplied 573 wether lambs averaging 22.95kg that accrued 83.35 points.
Al Whyte said the lambs they sold to WAMMCO were all purchased in as they didn't run a breeding flock as they were focused mainly on cropping.
"We usually purchase in between 800 to 1500 Merino wether lambs a year with the assistance of Lincon Gangell from Westcoast Wool & Livestock, but last year we didn't buy as many because we were short of water," Mr Whyte said.
The Whytes usually buy the lambs in late spring and shear them in November before they are run on their barley and lupin stubbles to clean them up.
"We then shear them at the beginning of April again before we sell them at the end of the month," Mr Whyte said.
"They have to be off in the last week of April before we start seeding."
Last year we paid an average of $105 for the lambs and when we sold them in April they returned an average of $170 over the hooks.
The Rolinson family, HM Rolinson, Kalannie, finished third in the small Merino supplier section on 81.79 points.
The Rolinsons delivered 524 lambs which averaged 23.12kg.
Want weekly news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Farm Weekly newsletter.