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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
By Nicole Baxter Photos by Evan Collis Geoff Crabb is successfully pioneering the breeding of bare-breech sheep, and claims his approach has reduced costs on the two commercial farms he manages at Esperance and Dongara, Western Australia. Mr Crabb, who started breeding easy-care sheep five years ago, has virtually eliminated fly problems within his flock and this year will only mules a handful of the 25,000 ewes he manages for Stoney Pastoral Company. Indeed, Mr Crabb's story is an example of just what can be achieved by woolgrowers who take advantage of the productivity gains possible through careful genetic selection. He puts the success of his dual-purpose Merino breeding program down to a common- sense approach of judiciously eradicating from the flock any animals that become fly-struck or inferior. "Once you set the system up, it becomes easy to manage," Mr Crabb says. But producing a flock of easy-care sheep was not a case of overnight success. Mr Crabb's foray into breeding easy-care sheep started five years ago, in response to a shortage of experienced stock people and the desire to attract young people to work on Stoney Pastoral Company farms. "None of our employees wanted to chase fly- blown sheep that suffer grass-seed problems, and since we've moved to easy-care sheep they are a lot happier," he says. "Who'd want to chase fly-blown sheep in this day and age?" AWI's sheep productivity program manager Dr Troy Fischer visited Mr Crabb in April and was impressed by what he described as an "effective, pragmatic approach to breeding". "Geoff has a very positive attitude and just wants to develop a flock that is easy to manage, requires less chemicals and has fewer environmental impacts," Dr Fischer says. Bare-breech breeding boosts bottom line With a breeding objective of producing highly fer tile, bare-breech, easy- care sheep that cut five to six kilograms of 22-micron greasy wool per head with a 100-millimetre staple length, WA woolgrower Geoff Crabb explains just how this is being achieved "We cannot justify breeding for wool alone," Mr Crabb says. "We're going for a dual-purpose sheep because that's where the money is." The WA wool producer says profit per hectare hinges on flock fertility, and for Stoney Pastoral Company this means maximising weaning percentage and the stocking rate per hectare. To select for fertility, he uses subjective and objective data. All Stoney Pastoral Company ewes are scanned early to detect ewes that fall pregnant on the first cycle. This year, the farm achieved a 94 per cent conception rate. Ewes found to be empty are rejoined a second time and this year second- round conceptions were 65 per cent. Breeding ewes that fail to conceive the second time are removed from the main mob and sold when their numbers build. The package approach to breeding also involves high-quality clover-rye-based pastures and 8 BEYOND THE BALE BREEDING FOR PROFIT SUPPLEMENT ON-FARM According to Mr Crabb, Stoney Pastoral Company's breeding objective is to produce highly fertile, bare-breech, easy-care Merinos that cut five to six kilograms of 22-micron greasy wool per head.
Oct 07 - Nov 07
Aug 07 - Sep 07