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Beyond the Bale : December 2017
Animal Production Specialist Daniel Schuppan from Jamestown in South Australia says a Merino enterprise provides flexibility, allowing producers to target different markets in the meat and fibre sectors. MERINOS OFFER Animal Production Specialist Daniel Schuppan. Merinos offer farmers a profitable option with the ability to produce a gross margin of up to $60/DSE for self- replacing Merino flocks in the cereal zone according to 2016-17 The Sheep’s Back benchmarking program figures, says Landmark Animal Production Specialist Daniel Schuppan. “In a Merino enterprise, we have a magnificent product in wool and meat; there are opportunities for producers to innovate, differentiate and engage consumers,” he said. Mr Schuppan, who works with producers across South Australia and runs several farm benchmarking groups, says current high prices for wool, meat and breeding ewes meant great returns for the Merino sector but you still need a good livestock system to “capture the good times”. “There’s good demand for wool, then on the meat side, producers have a range of options – running a self-replacing flock, finishing wether lambs or selling as stores, selling 1.5-year-old surplus breeders, selling cast-for-age ewes for mutton or joining all or some Merino ewes to British breed rams to produce a first cross lamb. There’s many options which enable Merinos to fit into a production system that best suits a producer’s management and farm capabilities,” he said. “Merino ewes can be joined all year round as there is less impact from day length on fertility; so you can target them to lamb early and finish lambs on green feed, or lamb later and finish on stubbles, irrigation or in a feedlot. “Whether it’s in the pastoral, cereal or even high rainfall zones, Merinos fit in well across the board and can adapt to a range of environments.” Mr Schuppan says two key factors in a self-replacing Merino enterprise are feed and genetics. “You need to focus on growing good quality feed and utilise as much as possible,” he said. “With genetics, it all comes down to setting breeding objectives for your flock, and then aligning them to a stud that fits.” Mr Schuppan said current high replacement ewe prices had led some producers back to breeding more Merino ewes. “Many producers are preferring to breed ewes rather than buy in replacements,” he said. “Breeding a self-replacing Merino flock does have several benefits, particularly from a biosecurity standpoint. But at the end of the day it comes back to management, the money you make comes from management, through your pastures, genetics, animal health and marketing.” DANIEL’S TOP 3 REASONS TO CHOOSE MERINOS: • Flexibility – Merinos allow producers to target different markets in the meat and fibre sectors. • Profitability – In 2016 benchmarking figures, Merinos produced $60/DSE. • Adaptability – Merinos run in a range of environments – pastoral, cereal and higher-rainfall. Mr Schuppan says it is important to keep enterprises “simple”, have scale and get operations done on time. “For farmers who only have 800 to 1000 ewes, focus on one enterprise with your flock,” he said. “It’s better to have a decent line of wool and surplus sheep to sell, rather than multiple enterprises. It helps to minimise labour requirements. The benefit of having a first cross lamb in the system to offload early for seasonal risk management reasons can be overcome with different tactics. “Focus on keeping it simple, for example with a self-replacing Merino flock in a 12-month period you can have one lambing, one or two shearings and sell a marketable line of surplus ewes, 1.5-year-old ewes and wether lambs. “Also, if you need advice to achieve your aims, then look to employ outside help where needed, whether that’s through using someone else to select and buy your rams, or class your sheep, or review the whole livestock enterprise plan and do some budgets.” FLEXIBLE PRODUCTION FIT The Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders' (AASMB) Breed More Merino Ewes campaign, launched in September last year and supported by AWI, highlights Merinos are achieving profitable results for producers compared to other breeds and enterprises across Australia in a range of production systems and rainfall zones. The campaign acknowledges the Merino ewe as the backbone of the Australian The two case studies on these two pages are part of AASMB's campaign. MORE INFORMATION www.merinos.com.au sheep industry and encourages producers to increase Merino breeding ewe numbers in their enterprise mix. 32 ON FARM