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Beyond the Bale : March 2018
Averaged over 52 weeks, the Shippen family’s 44,000 self-replacing Merino flock fill around seven bales per day, essentially culminating in more than 2,600 bales per year and a very efficient operation. It’s always been about getting the most from their Merinos for Ian and wife Camilla, who are big supporters of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders’ (AASMB) latest Breed More Merino Ewes campaign. In order to build their own Merino ewe numbers, the Shippens have spent many years gradually expanding their enterprise through buying and selling property, taking some big risks and shifting further afield from irrigated areas to more pastoral plains. From the very beginning of their farming career, the Shippens wanted to run a thriving large-scale Merino operation and set about building that dream by initially purchasing the modest 1,821ha family farm ‘Banyandah’ from Ian’s parents. They were young, enthusiastic and driven to succeed, eventually increasing their landholding to its current total of 105,000ha, the majority of which is situated at Moulamein in the Hay Plains of NSW (330mm average annual rainfall), with 5,700ha of it located at Wagga Wagga (500mm average annual rainfall). “When I left school I did a lot of sheep husbandry around the place and got a feel for what makes a good Merino,” Ian said. KEEPING A SIMPLE BUT STRICT ANNUAL SCHEDULE When asked about the intricacies of his Merino operation, Ian said he keeps it very simple, only handling his flock of 30,000 Merino ewes at Banyandah three times a year, and running to a strict annual schedule. He has a similar approach to the additional 14,000 Merino ewes residing at the Wagga Wagga property, consisting of 5-year-olds and overflow younger ewes that are joined to Poll Dorset rams. Ian’s golden rule is to run his sheep program to a precise calendar, kicking off between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when his rams are joined with the ewes for a 14 week mating period. The longer than usual joining works within this system, as the Shippens pregnancy scan the ewes in April, while simultaneously removing the rams. Those ewes that scanned empty are then pregnancy tested six weeks later, and Ian said around 50% of those late joiners scan pregnant. When the later lambs arrive, they are weaned quite early and sent to the Wagga Wagga property to grow out, in an effort to let the mothers recover and fall back into line with the main ewe mobs for the next joining. Rams are bred on-farm as part of the Shippen’s Merino stud, which consists of 3,500 “The bottom line was we wanted to run a profitable Merino operation, so we took some big risks to do that. We bought and sold a lot of country, grew rice, traded water licences and expanded into predominantly pastoral areas. “We enjoy the challenge of trying to better ourselves and find more ways to improve and breed a profitable sheep each year.” Ian and Camilla Shippen “There’s no exact science to breeding top quality wool on sheep, but everyone seems to be looking for a computer program to find the perfect formula. You need to physically look at, touch and closely study thousands of sheep and ask the question, what is a productive sheep? “There’s a lot of knowledge and skills disappearing from the wool industry along with our older generation of sheep farmers, and we really need to tap into that before all of that knowledge is lost. “I have been very fortunate to learn a lot of what I know about sheep from the older generation.” So much so, that when Ian purchased a retiring Bob Simpson’s sheep back in 2001, the two like-minded producers realised they shared the same vision of a productive and profitable Merino, and Mr Simpson has classed the Banyandah flock ever since. When Hay Plains farmer Ian Shippen drifts off to sleep each night, he rests easy, knowing his sheep will have grown him seven more bales of wool by the morning. It’s a comforting thought for the passionate Merino producer, who has poured over the sums for many years and worked out early in his career that wool is a consistent winner. AS A SIMPLE, LOW COST, PROFITABLE ENTERPRISE 34 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2018