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Beyond the Bale : February 2010
16 February 2010 BEYOND THE BALE WOOL PRODUCTION Young farmer values Merinos' reliability With fence-high crops and a full hayshed ready for export, you could be forgiven for asking why Aaron and Claire Bradley are so keen on growing wool. Productivity abounds on their mixed- farming operation, 'Claronbrae', at Farrell Flat in the Clare Valley, South Australia. But in recent years this has not always been the case due to a run of difficult and very dry years. This is why Merinos and woolgrowing are ideal for this farming operation, which runs more than 8000 acres of owned and leased land in the area. "Merinos are a great insurance policy for a mixed-farming operation like ours; they are low-cost and low-risk, and they obviously give you a dual income with wool and meat," says a smiling Aaron Bradley. "I can't see why more young farmers don't get into Merinos as they complement what I do by lowering the risk." While 2009 will be remembered as one of the great years for sheep production, cereal prices are far from exciting and are hardly making up for a string of poor years -- another reason wool has been a great investment for the young farming family. Reliably cutting about six kilograms of 22-micron wool every year from his flock of 1100 Kelvale blood ewes and a 90 per cent weaning rate, Aaron says he can rely on Merinos. "People have been saying how bad the wool market is, but I've made over $1000 a bale in 2009 and that is a good return when you compare it to the input costs, production and marketing risks associated with cropping. "People forget there has been a global financial crisis and, given this, the wool market has stood up pretty well really. Add to this Merino wether lambs sold at 22 to 26 kilograms dressed weight at 12 months, Merinos are a very good part of the business." Having bought his first sheep station, 'Coonibar', when he was still at university, Aaron has clearly had a farming plan in place for a long time, but still continues to learn about running sheep and wool as part of a cropping enterprise. "I have the Making More from Sheep manual and it's a good reference when I need it. Probably the thing I have used most from AWI is the time-of-lambing calculator 'Lambing Planner', because it is a simple and effective tool that helps me plan the production year." With a very busy farm calendar, Aaron lambs in April/May to best fit in with the cropping season. FAST FACTS l Young farmer Aaron Bradley, from the Clare Valley in South Australia, says his Merino flock provides low- risk, low-input production of both wool and meat. l Reliably cutting about six kilograms of 22-micron wool every year from his flock and a 90 per cent weaning rate, Aaron says he can rely on Merinos. l Aaron uses the Making More from Sheep manual and Lambing Planner calculator. The Bradley family, 'Claronbrae', Farrell Flat, South Australia: Aaron, Taylor, Claire and Charlotte. There is no doubt the sheep have to fit in around the cropping on this farm. Winter grazing of cereals and later stubbles allows production and weed control at different times of the year. Wether lambs are fattened on cereal and legume stubbles before selling as heavy lambs at 12 months of age. Shearing in August fits in around spraying and fertilising crops, while any supplementary feed is supplied through rejected export hay and 'out of spec' grain. "The Merinos provide a financial and production balance to the operation and complement the farm. Hopefully more young farmers will see wool growing this way," he adds. More information: To obtain Making More from Sheep -- A sheep producer's manual ($65 + GST) or the Lambing Planner (free), contact the AWI Helpline, 1800 070 099
September November 2009