History was created at last week's WAMMCO Producer of the Year award presentations at Katanning when the Quartermaine family, PC & CM Quartermaine, Highbury, became the first producer to claim the title twice.
The 2022/23 awards mark the seventh time the awards have been presented and, prior to this year, no one had ever won the award twice since they replaced the State Prime Lamb Carcase Competition in 2016/17.
The awards were introduced by WAMMCO to enable more suppliers to be eligible for recognition.
WAMMCO producer relations manager Rob Davidson, who co-ordinates the awards, said the design and aim of the awards was to enhance the efficiencies at all levels of WAMMCO's business.
"That means efficiencies through supply, the plant and marketing of the product," Mr Davidson said.
"We want carcases with a dressed weight of 18.1 to 28 kilograms and a fat score 2-3, as that is our sweet spot, but they need to be defect free.
"That means they can't be overfat and have to be free of Ovis, pleurisy, grass seeds, arthritis and dog bites - as these reduce our efficiencies and the amount of saleable meat."
Mr Davidson said not only did WAMMCO want carcases that fit into its sweet spot, but it was also critical as a processor that it has year-round supply.
"We want a consistent supply of lambs year-round to process as we have markets that need to be supplied 12 months of the year and these awards recognise producers who can supply throughout the year and not just in the traditional spring flush period," Mr Davidson said.
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.
This year, 774,646 lambs were assessed for the awards from 494 members from across the State - from Geraldton in the north to Esperance in the south east - making it one of the largest lamb competitions in Australia.
The number of lambs assessed was up by almost 67,000 head on last year and the number of lambs assessed made up 96 per cent of all lambs processed at WAMMCO.
"Of all the lambs assessed for the 2022/23 awards, 59pc hit the sweet spot for WAMMCO when it came to carcase weight, fat score and defect-free carcases, but there was a range from 0.94pc to 96.02pc compliance," Mr Davidson said.
"The number hitting the sweet was down on previous years due to a number of lambs being heavier and having higher fat scores.
"In terms of defects, 3.3pc of the carcases displayed them and the biggest contributor to this was arthritis - with 48pc of the defected carcases showing arthritis, which is something that producers can reduce with vaccination."
Last year in the competition 707,440 lambs were assessed from 524 members and 72.9pc 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 categories 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 (750 plus).
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 a voucher for product from sponsor Zoetis.
During the seven years of the competition, WAMMCO, Zoetis and other companies have distributed more than $170,000 in cash, meat eskies filled with WAMMCO lamb and donated product to winning producers.
When Paul, Colleen, Perrin and Gayelle Quartermaine and family were announced the winners of the large crossbred supplier section of the awards, it meant the Quartermaine name was added to the Judy Cameron Memorial Producer of the Year trophy for a second time.
The first time it appeared on the trophy was in the inaugural year of the awards, which was for the 2016/17 financial year.
The Quartermaines, who have been long-term supporters of WAMMCO and breeding prime lambs since the early 1980s, took first place in the large crossbred lamb supplier section with 3790 crossbred lambs averaging 21.90kg that gained 84.77 points - 2.09 points in front of the second placegetter in the section.
The lambs supplied by the Quartermaines were all owner-bred out of Hill Padua blood ewes and sired by Lakeside and Elspeth Poll Dorset rams.
Mr Quartermaine said when selecting their Poll Dorset sires he looked for rams with good early growth and muscling, while he selects rams from Hill Padua which have high growth rates and good wool cuts.
Lambing on the property starts in the second week of May and the Quartermaines aim to wean their lambs at 12-weeks-old.
Mr Quartermaine said they try to get as many lambs off to market as possible during the spring as soon as they reach weight.
"We are aiming for an 18kg carcase weight and usually we get about 50pc off in the spring," Mr Quartermaine said.
"Last year we got our first load away in mid-October."
Any lambs not sold in the spring are shorn in November/December.
Mr Quartermaine said once they were shorn some go into their feedlot where they are fed pellets, while the rest go onto stubbles to be backgrounded before going into the feedlot.
Finishing second in the large crossbred category for a second year running after winning the 2020/21 title were Sergio, Mary, Michael and Alison Lucchesi, SD & MT Lucchesi, Kulin.
The Lucchesi family, which has been running a prime lamb operation since 2000 and supplying WAMMCO since 2010, delivered 12,773 lambs averaging 23.05kg that gained 82.68 points.
The lambs supplied by the Kulin enterprise were a mix of owner-bred (3000 head) 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 and they run it with the support of their stock manager Morgan Franks.
The family aims to join about 3000 Merino ewes annually to Poll Dorset and White Suffolk sires from the Narembeen-based Cheetara stud.
Mr Lucchesi said they purchased in their Merino ewes with the assistance of Westcoast Wool & Livestock's Lincon and Barry Gangell and they aim to buy large-framed, roomy ewes.
The Lucchesi's flock lambs in March/April and last year they weaned their lambs in late July/early August.
Mr Lucchesi said if it was a good season the lambs 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 sold our first draft of owner-bred lambs in August straight off their mothers and the majority of their owner-bred lambs had been sold before December," Mr Lucchesi said.
Any of the family's owner-bred lambs that aren't sold in the spring and the store lambs they purchase in go onto stubbles when they become available and then are finished in the family's feedlot on a barley/lupin ration.
Mr Lucchesi said they put the lambs in the feedlot at 42kg liveweight shorn and turn them out at a minimum of 48kg liveweight.
"We usually start selling out of the feedlot in January and we sell them right through until July/August when our new season lambs come on line," he said.
"Our aim is to be continually supplying lambs to WAMMCO either as suckers off their mothers or out of the feedlot."
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.
Third in the large crossbred supplier section were Francis McKee, wife Emma White and son Fraser, FW McKee & EJ White, Fitzgerald and Cranbrook, with 3006 owner-bred lambs averaging 23.31kg that achieved 82.43 points.
The lambs were out of Merino ewes purchased from the Katanning saleyards and sired by Suffolk and White Suffolk rams.
Mr McKee said they joined about 3000 ewes at Fitzgerald which start lambing in mid-March and another 1000 ewes at Cranbrook which start lambing in July.
"We start weaning the Fitzgerald lambs in August on to good pastures and lick feeders filled with lupins and barley," Mr McKee said.
"Our aim is to sell as many of these lambs as possible off their mothers as suckers in August and September.
"We usually get rid of 60-70pc but had trouble getting rid of that many last year as it was hard to get space."
Any of the lambs born at Fitzgerald that aren't sold as suckers are shorn in late October/early November and then run on stubbles when they become available with lick feeders.
When it comes to the lambs born at Cranbrook Mr McKee said they were weaned in October/November and like the Fitzgerald lambs were shorn and finished on stubbles and lick feeders.
"The Cranbrook lambs usually start being sold once the Fitzgerald ones have all gone," Mr McKee said.
"The last of our lambs are usually gone by March/April."
Broomehill producers Todd and Jenna Green, Jokar Farming Company Pty Ltd, won the medium crossbred supplier category, finishing on 88.51 points.
The Green family supplied 1961 owner-bred lambs mainly in September and October to WAMMCO, which averaged 22.25kg.
Annually the Greens join 1000 Merino ewes based on Barloo bloodlines to Yonga Downs White Suffolk sires for an April lambing as well as 2000 ewes to Barloo sires for a July lambing.
Mr Green said he tries to keep their crossbred lambs on their mothers as long as possible until they are ready to go.
"Our first line went in late September last year and then we sent off another line at the end of October when they were up to weight," he said.
"Any lambs that we can't get up to weight off their mothers in the spring we carry through and sell later."
The Green's lighter lambs which aren't sold in the spring are shorn and run on lupin stubbles when they become available.
"Usually these lighter lambs are sold off the stubbles in February," Mr Green said.
When it comes to their Merino lambs the Greens also sell these to WAMMCO in April/May after they put them through a feedlot on the property.
Second place in the medium crossbred supplier section was Gordon, Philip and Rachael McLean, RJ McLean & Co, Lake Biddy.
The McLeans achieved a score of 82.93 points for their 1514 owner-bred lambs, averaging 23.27kg they supplied.
Annually the McLeans join 3000 ewes to Merino rams from the Dunwell's Ronern flock and 3500 Merino ewes to Suffolk rams from the Jusak stud and Prime SAMM sires from Tiarri stud, Lake Grace.
Philip McLean said their lambs were dropped from mid-July through to the end of August and they were weaned in November onto their stubbles.
"Last year our first line of crossbred lambs went in April and the last line in June," Mr McLean said.
"After they came off the stubbles in March they shorn and supplemented in the paddock with hay and barley to get them up to weight."
Just 1.7 points behind the McLean family and claiming third place in the medium crossbred category on 81.23 points was the Alexander family, JD & TC Alexander, Beverley, who won the category last year.
The Alexanders supplied 1579 owner-bred lambs averaging 22.76kg between January and June to WAMMCO.
The June-drop lambs supplied by the Alexanders were out of Merino ewes and by Sandown Prime SAMM rams.
Their lambs last year were weaned in September onto pastures and then they went onto barley stubble when it became available.
Tim Alexander said they had a good run with last year's lambs and they were able to sell their first draft off the stubbles in January.
"After the first line went we put feeders containing a lupin/barley and mineral mix in the stubble paddock to finish the rest of them," Mr Alexander said.
The Alexanders aim to turn-off a draft a month at a minimum of 47kg liveweight (emptied out overnight).
"We weigh the week out from our booking and confirm with WAMMCO what we have," Mr Alexander said.
The winners of the small crossbred supplier category were Gary and Sue Lang and their sheep manager Darrel Sims, CJ & BA Lang, Wickepin, whose goal is to produce 100kg of carcase weight per hectare.
The Langs claimed the award with 82.91 points for the 550 owner-bred, July 2021-drop lambs they supplied in July 2022 to WAMMCO, which averaged 22.14kg.
The lambs were out of first-cross Prolific-Merino ewes and sired by Ashbourne White Suffolk rams.
Mr Lang said they had been breeding a first-cross Prolific ewe for more than 10 years and source their Prolific rams from BreedersBEST Genetics at Kojonup.
"We join about 1500 first-cross ewes to White Suffolks and 500 Merino ewes to Prolific rams which lamb down in July," Mr Lang said.
"Normally we sell our lambs from January through to April but our 2021-drop lambs ended up being sold in July 2022 as we found it difficult to get a booking.
"We finished them on the green feed in autumn and we would have sold them six to eight weeks early if booking space was available, as they were ready to go."
Second place in this category went to Alex and Darren Baum, Aidinville Farms, Ongerup, when they recorded 82.69 points for the 738 lambs they supplied averaging 21.76kg.
Alex Baum said their stock enterprise made up only a small portion of their total operation which was highly grain driven.
"We don't run any breeders, we just trade crossbred and Merino lambs with the aim of making $20-$30 profit on them with limited inputs," Mr Baum said.
"We also use them as a tool in our cropping program to clean up weeds."
The Baums buy in lambs annually from November to January with the assistance of Nutrien Livestock, Gnowangerup representative Darren Robertson, who Mr Baum said does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to their lamb enterprise.
Mr Baum said they wanted a lamb with a good sound body that would finish quickly.
"We try to buy them in shorn and put them straight on the stubbles where we finish them," Mr Baum said.
"The aim is to turn them off at 45-48kg liveweight as we are aiming for an 18-22kg carcase.
"We draft every couple of weeks and send them off as they become ready and we want them all gone by the end of March."
Third place in the small crossbred supplier category went to the McDonald family, Kuloomba Farming, Esperance, on 81.64 points.
The Esperance enterprise supplied 690 lambs which averaged 21.46kg.
The number one position in the large Merino supplier section was secured by longtime suppliers the Roberts family, Lortleaze Farm, Cascade.
The Roberts supplied 2804 owner-bred wether and surplus ewe lambs averaging 21.52kg and finished on 87.24 points.
In 2023 the enterprise joined 6000 ewes to Poll Merino rams from the Westwood stud, Cascade, where the Roberts family has been purchasing rams since the stud's inception.
Simeon Roberts said when he selects rams from Westwood he looks for plain-bodied, long carcase with a free wool type.
"We turn over large numbers of rams each year so we can improve the consistency of our flock quicker which means we buy rams from the stud both out of the Esperance ram sale and privately so it is economic to do so," Mr Roberts said.
"When finished well, Westwood genetics have very good carcase composition equal to that of prime lamb.
"I believe a well-bred, well-finished Merino should not be discounted on the WAMMCO grid."
The Roberts drop their lambs over a 3.5 week period, starting June 10 on vetch pastures.
Mr Roberts said they dropped in June as they were guaranteed some sort of pastures by then if the season starts late.
"Also we have opted for a tighter joining as it then allows us to wean earlier which assists making decisions in tight seasons," Mr Roberts said.
"We usually wean in the second week of August onto vetch pastures which are planted as a manipulating pasture to add nitrogen to the cropping progam."
The Roberts shear their Merino lambs in the first week of December and then they go onto the new season stubbles (canola, wheat and barley) when they become available.
Once the feed quality drops off in the stubbles the lambs then have access to lupins in feeders.
The final step the Roberts undertake prior to selling their Merino lambs is to finish them in a feedlot on the property.
"We usually finish them in the feedlot in April/May and sell them in May/June," Mr Roberts said.
"In the feedlot the lambs are fed a ration of lupins, oats, barley and minerals from Moylan feeders and they also have access to hay.
"It is a very simple set up and we will usually fill the feeders and hay weekly using a chaser bin and loader equipment from the grain enterprise which gives it more use and reduces labour input."
Mr Roberts said they had been supplying WAMMCO for many years and liked supporting the co-operative model.
"Given the historic rise and fall of several commercial abattoirs, I think we will continue to support the co-operative model into the future," he said.
"I dealt directly with WAMMCO for a number of years and did our bookings but this year have changed to using an agent as they are giving us great support with our sheep operation in terms of day to day operations.
"Dealing directly with WAMMCO worked well for us and we had a good relationship and got plenty of feedback but I am now using the Westcoast Wool & Livestock team to help with the bookings and they have also been assisting with livestock management/husbandry tasks onfarm.
"They have up the standard of support onfarm for our sheep operation with real meaningful labour contributions and knowledge which is great to have given how hard it is to get labour with the expertise to manage livestock."
Mr Roberts said it was also great to hear at the annual general meeting that WAMMCO would be putting in a new kill line which would be able to handle heavy mutton and rams.
"It is great they are putting the new line in but we also need to have confidence that we will be paid well for our heavy mutton, because if we are not it reduces our gross margins," he said.
"As Wheatbelt producers we produce quality heavy mutton and we need to be paid for every kilogram produced to remain profitable as we only run low numbers per hectare.
"Also with seasonal fluctuations we more often have to increase and decrease ewe numbers which means we trade quite a lot of mutton in dryer years.
"If producers aren't going to get paid appropriately, I think we will see more producers leave the industry."
Finishing 0.41 points behind the Lortleaze Farms and claiming second place in the large Merino supplier category was Steve and Natalie Thompson, SJ & N Thompson, Newdegate.
The Thompsons finished on 86.83 points after supplying 1730 lambs averaging 23.13kg.
Mr Thompson said they have supplied their Merino wether and surplus ewe lambs to WAMMCO since 1998 when they started a feedlot on the property.
Annually the Thompsons join 2300 ewes to Seymour Park Poll Merino rams for a July lambing and the lambs are weaned in mid-October.
Mr Thompson said once their stubbles become available they run their lambs on the best ones irrespective of what they were and they supplement with additional feed if needed.
"We then shear them in March and once they are shorn they go into our feedlot," he said.
"They are usually in the feedlot for five to eight weeks its just depends what weight they go in at."
In the feedlot the lambs are fed a prepared mix of hay, barley, lupins and minerals.
Last year the Thompsons sold their lambs over three drafts to WAMMCO.
The first draft went in the first week of May and the last one in early June.
Third place in the large Merino supplier category went to long-term suppliers Ron and Winston Dunwell, R Dunwell & Son, Yealering, on 80.73 points.
The Dunwells supplied 882 wether lambs averaging 22.08kg.
The Dunwells, who run a closed flock and started measuring their sheep in 1963 join 2500 ewes to homebred Merino rams.
Ron Dunwell said they were aiming to breed a solid animal with good frame size.
"We are paying a bit more attention to wool quality now but we are still keeping an eye on carcase traits," Mr Dunwell said.
The Dunwells drop their lambs in April and wean them in August onto good rested pastures.
"Our aim is to sell them at 45-48kg liveweight as sucker lambs straight off their mothers or as soon as possible after they are weaned.
"Usually we have sold them all by the end of September over three drafts."
The Dunwells use Westcoast Wool & Livestock's Barry Gangell to book their lambs into WAMMCO.
The final category - small Merino supplier - was won by Graeme and Hilary Cussons, GJ & HA Cussons, Kojonup, with a mix of 2021 and 2022-drop owner-bred lambs.
The Cussons, who have been only selling their Merino wether lambs to WAMMCO for the past two years, having previously sold them to live export, gained a total of 82.14 points for the 280 lambs they supplied averaging 21.79kg.
The Cussons run a Merino flock based on Angenup and East Strathglen bloodlines and annually join 1200 ewes to Merino rams and another 1000 ewes to Orrvale and Glencraobh Poll Dorset rams for a mid-June lambing.
Mr Cussons said they wean their Merino lambs at the end of November onto fodder crops and then they go on stubbles with lick feeders containing an oat, barley and lupin mix, once the fodder crops are eaten out.
"Our aim is to sell our Merino lambs in May/June/July at 11-12 months old when they are ready," Mr Cussons said.
"We draft them off if they are at weight and take them over to WAMMCO in our own truck."
Second place in this category went to Malcolm and Ruth Leske and son Mark and his wife Bree, Tellerack Farming, Cascade, on 81.96 points, for 702 owner-bred predominantly wether lambs averaging 23.25kg.
The 702 lambs supplied over the 12 month period to WAMMCO by the Leske family was made up of a line of 271 October shorn, 2021-drop lambs sent in the first week of July in 2022 and 431 October shorn, 2022-drop lambs sent over two drafts in the last two weeks of January 2023.
The Leske aim to join 850 ewes based on Penrose and Wattle Dale bloodlines to rams from the same studs as well as 550 Merino ewes to Cascade White Suffolk rams for an April lambing but Malcolm Leske said the numbers they joined did depend on the season.
All their lambs are weaned in June onto spelled paddocks and the family aims to start selling them as soon as they reach the target weight of 48kg liveweight.
Generally they are shorn in October and run on stubbles.
The prize for third in the section was also headed east to Esperance when BJ & CC Lewis was announced as the third placegetter on 79.91 points.
The Lewis family supplied 350 lambs over the 12 month period which averaged 20.34kg.
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