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Beyond the Bale : March 2018
“I’m very passionate about wool; you really can have a profitable dual-purpose animal, and that is the Merino sheep. “First and foremost, when we select our breeding stock, we look for size and staple length. I love big back ends on sheep, because it gives you another kilo or so of wool without compromising fertility, and that is the key. “Merinos are a simple, low cost, profitable operation.” Ian and Camilla Shippen “What fertility and wool cut comes down to is keeping your ewes in good condition, and that means feeding them in February on the assumption that autumn is going to fail. “We budget on spending $5 a year per ewe on feed, just to be prepared for the lulls. “That’s also why lambing percentage has never been an issue for us, we’ve always worked on being proactive rather that reactive when it comes to feed supply and ewe condition.” Ewes in good condition inherently produce more healthy lambs, but also plenty of top quality wool, so when Ian talks about wool characteristics, he looks for a big, bold crimping, free-growing fleece with plenty of lustre. LOOKING AFTER THE LAND With the majority of their operation centred in pastoral country, the Shippens tend to understock their land, primarily suited to livestock rather than cropping. However, to maintain the delicate synergy that exists between the natural pastoral landscape of perennial grasses and livestock, the family has sewn more than one million saltbush plants to restore health to the soil and provide an alternative feed source. Merinos work within our environment, our natural landscape and it’s about looking after our country and getting the best out of it.” Ian and Camilla Shippen As for any future plans, Ian said their large- scale Merino operation suits their pastoral area perfectly and they won’t be making drastic changes any time soon. “I would dearly love to run a wether operation, purely to indulge myself and grow more wool,” Ian said. “But I still think a self- replacing Merino flock is the most profitable operation for us, than any other breed mix. “In the pastoral zone, we look at the production per unit, not per hectare as in the higher rainfall areas, because we have to take care of our country. The land is too fragile, so we have to breed the most productive unit we can, rather than looking at things like DSE per hectare. “At the end of the day, we set out to breed good sheep with plenty of wool, good fertility and keep it very simple, just perhaps on a larger scale than most.” In October the gigantic task of shearing 55,000 grown sheep and 40,000 lambs across all of Ian and Camilla’s operations begins. Their 21 micron clip fills more than 2,600 bales. ewes from around six different families, with fresh bloodlines arriving annually after Ian purchases three or four new sires. Those April-scanned ewes achieve between 90-95% conception rate, and of those scanned ewes, their lambing percentage consistently reaches between 120-125%. During the last week of July, the second big sheep husbandry event on the Shippen’s calendar occurs when the ewes and lambs are brought into the yards to undertake several jobs all at the one time, which includes mulesing and marking the lambs and crutching the ewes. The third and final event occurs in the third week of October, when the gigantic task of shearing 55,000 grown sheep, 40,000 lambs across all of Ian and Camilla’s operations gets under way. A TRUE WOOL ENTHUSIAST The scale of the event does not intimidate Ian, a true wool enthusiast, who revels in watching his 21 micron wool clip be shorn and packed into more than 2,600 bales. “Wool is very important to our operation and making our numbers work,” Ian said. “Fifty per cent of our gross profit is attributed to wool, and we sell 40,000 sheep a year to make up the remaining fifty per cent of our income. Camilla and Ian Shippen run Merinos on their 105,000ha, the majority of which is located at Moulamein in the Hay Plains of NSW. ON FARM 35
In the Shops - March 2018