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Beyond the Bale : Oct 07 - Nov 07
17 8x5 WOOL PROFIT PROGRAM BEYOND THE BALE Until recently the most Chris Headlam knew about the 8x5 Wool Profit Program was the occasional newsletter he saw lying about. But late in 2006, as seasonal conditions were declining, the young Tasmanian woolgrower noticed an advertisement in a local paper for an 8x5 workshop on drought-lotting. Around the same time he was telephoned and asked to attend a meeting with other woolgrowers keen to establish a local 8x5 group for their area in the southern midlands. He decided to attend both. "I thought it would be a good chance to interact with other businesses in the area and discuss farming practices and management, thinking they might get something out of it and I might get something out of it just by exchanging ideas," he says. His hunch was right. Now, less than a year later, Chris is an active member of the Oatlands 8x5 group, one of eight 8x5 grower-based groups representing different regions of Tasmania. He credits the program with helping him steer his Merinos relatively unscathed through the drought that still has Tasmania in its grip. After attending that first workshop on drought-lotting, Chris -- who had already been de-stocking and feed rationing -- realised that introducing drought lots would have to be the next step. It was a dramatic shift for the fourth-generation woolgrower who had never had to resort to the practice before. "The biggest hurdle was to come to terms with the need to do it, but as things deteriorated, and with wind erosion, it was our best option," he says. So in February 2007, coming off a year that delivered just 230 millimetres of rain, and the driest period the family farm had ever experienced, Chris built two drought lots and moved 1000 ewes into them to feed on bought fodder in troughs. A month later, after a follow-up meeting to compare notes with other growers, Chris refined his drought lots further, splitting the pens in half to measure 80 metres by 100m and bringing in 1000 more ewes, with 500 in each pen. Forty per cent of his stock was now in the drought lots -- the most his budget could allow. While drought-lotting was a more expensive option than keeping his flock on pasture, Chris was able to minimise de-stocking and keep more breeding ewes in lamb than he had expected, while giving the paddocks a chance to recover. Today, there has still been little respite from drought, but the ewes, after spending 20 weeks in the drought lots are back on the rested pasture with their lambs and going well. "The feeding had kept the ewes pretty strong," Chris says. Drought lots extend management options "We've sent the stock into paddocks with a bit of feed on them and we've had very little lamb losses due to the mild weather." It is a situation he says would never have been possible had it not been for drought-lotting and the advice he gleaned from the 8x5 program. "I suppose I had never really been exposed to the possibility of drought-lotting before that," he says. "I had just been thinking of confinement feeding on stubbles and de-stocking." So impressed was he with the program that he recently hosted a workshop at his own property on Lifetime Wool, looking at longer-term ewe management, condition scoring, lamb survival and productivity based on nutrition. He says he has also gleaned valuable information from forums on wide-ranging topics such as wool enterprises and men's health. "With the drought, it's become so much more important to pay more attention to what you're doing," he says. "And it's been very beneficial to have access to the knowledge of other growers and professionals in the area we do business in." -- MELISSA MARINO 8x5 Wool Profit Program coordinator Warren Hunt (left) with Tasmanian woolgrower and program participant Chris Headlam. Another smart solution from: Get it from: - Kerry O'Kee e Cricket commentator and former Test player "Who said it's hard to get a Hat-Trick?"
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Dec - Jan 08