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Beyond the Bale : June 2018
ewes, the rest being dry animals and 6,000 wethers with up to 900 Merino-Corriedale/ Hampshire Down cross lambs sold at 75 days of age and 10.5 to 12 kgs to the Christmas market. There are also 800 Poll Hereford cattle. Across the flock the average micron is 19.5 micron, average fleece weight 5.4 kilograms and fleeces generally yield 65%. With Poll Hereford and Merino stud operations, the family travels widely to agricultural shows and sells up to 700 two-tooth rams a year and up to 70 bulls. Rio Pico has been using Australian Merino genetics since 2005 to increase both fleece weight and body weight with a wide variety of imported genetics from studs in WA, SA, NSW and Victoria. One of the major production constraints for the Merino enterprise is predation by red fox and puma and in some areas of Patagonia, predation by people is also a major issue. This predation and the weather constrains weaning rates to about 65-70% in the sheep enterprise and whilst predators are kept in check to some degree by baiting and shooting, the ability to fence the property is unfortunately not practical given the terrain. The best that can be done is to graze ewes and lambs in safer areas where and when both climate and conditions allow. With the altitude of the property ranging from 650m to 1500m above sea level, both winter and summer grazing systems are employed. Both native and marsh grasses are used along with an annual sowing of the evergreen perennial Festuca Pallescens (related to fescue). Given the snowfall on the Andes nearby and natural springs, there is no lack of flowing water but some canals have been dug to bring water to some irrigated paddocks. In the depths of winter, cattle are used to knock down snow to allow sheep the access to pasture below: not a grazing technique used by many in Australia. With eight grandchildren now on the property, the next generation is very much involved at Rio Pico and a special mention has to be made of Maria Gonzalo who was of enormous help to the Australian, New Zealand and Uruguayan farmers who attended the post conference tour. MORE INFORMATION A series of interviews from the post conference tour can be heard on The Yarn with an extended interview with Maria Gonzalo well worth a listen. Leleque wool-growing property in Patagonia. The tour provided an opportunity for visiting Australians to discuss Merinos with the local producers. The tour provided an opportunity for visitors to see the local’s sheep and practices. Pictured right is pressing a wool bale, from beneath. ON FARM 65