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Beyond the Bale : Feb 07 - Mar 07
Arthritis cripples profits by crippling your lambs lambs at marking Vaccinating the ewe with Eryvac® pre-lambing is the only way to protect * Erysipelas is one of a number of causes of arthritis in sheep. For more information about protecting the health of your lambs talk to your Pfizer Professional Sales Representative. Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd, 38-42 Wharf Road, West Ryde NSW 2114. Freecall: 1800 335 374 ®Registered trademark of Pfizer Australia. OGILVY HEALTHWORLD PASE0003TB Eryvac® vaccine controls arthritis caused by Erysipelas*: ■ Wool Producers • Increases weaning percentage • Protects progeny for self-replacement • More weaners to sell after classing ■ Meat Producers • Protects growth and weight gain of lambs • Prevents culling, carcass downgrade or condemnation • Greater returns per ewe Conviction sustains pastoral-zone growers Brian and Margie Rowe's experience as woolgrowers in South Australia's pastoral zone reflect Paul Deane's findings, but in a decade and a half of unprecedented challenges the trends only tell part of this couple's story. Despite weathering drought, fluctuating wool prices and forced stock reductions, the Rowes have made substantial improvements to their 150-square- kilometre property 'Wolhalla', at Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. The key, says Margie, is their long-standing conservative approach to stock numbers and a willingness to experiment and, in some cases, to go against the grain of popular opinion. "We have always been willing to change," she says. The greatest change was in 1998 when they moved shearing from August to April and lambing to June/July. "This means that in a normal year when we get good winter rain our ewes are able to access the best feed pre-lambing and haven't a heavy fleece to prevent them from getting up when weak or with wet wool," Margie says. As a result, lambing rates have increased from 60 or 70 per cent to 100 per cent. And fleece quality has improved as the suckling lambs promote a lower-micron wool and a break in the wool caused by lambing stress is prevented. While Brian is not surprised that Paul Deane's research shows pastoral areas have a higher fibre diameter than the Australian average, the Rowes have successfully met their target to average 22.5 micron in recent years. "In 2001, we fleece-tested in the shed during shearing to identify our lower- micron fleeces and sheep, with the aim of breeding for a lower micron," Brian says. "However, when we went to sell our wool we found that our 19 micron and lower with high VM (vegetable matter) had huge discounts and lower fleece weights than our 20-plus micron wool. It became very evident that we had to stay in the medium-micron range." The Rowes say it is important to have stock with a high constitution to survive the dry seasons in pastoral areas, and a large-framed sheep with medium-micron wool serves a dual purpose. Good lambing percentages enable their wether lambs to be sold for meat or to a feed lot, and older breeding ewes are in demand for breeding cross-bred lambs. In 2006, de-stocking has been required above usual levels and the Rowes have sold 1500 more sheep than they normally would, reducing the Merino flock to a core of 2500 breeding ewes and 500 ewe lambs. But if there is any consolation from a year like 2006, with no rain to speak of after July, it is that the micron count will be finer and, with less vegetation, the VM count will be down: "Below one per cent, I would imagine," says Brian. Looking to the future, the Rowes say the challenges are sourcing labour and competing with the wages and conditions the current mining boom can offer. "We cannot compete because of high costs and low returns for wool," Brian says. "Fifty years ago woolgrowers were paid a pound for one pound of wool. Our costs today have escalated twenty to thirty-fold." But the Rowes are prepared to adapt and change to face new challenges as they have done before. "I think there's a lot of positives," says Brian. "I can see the wool industry really booming in the next few years.Wool's got a big future because it's a great fibre and there's nothing else in the world that can compete with it." And despite a propensity among other growers to go into sheep meat or other breeds, the one thing the Rowes do not want to change is their Merinos. "I enjoy growing wool and breeding sheep and I've got no reason to change just at the moment," Brian says. "We have been proactive in selling sheep but the future is unknown at this point in time.We have rainfall records dating back to 1888 and there isn't a drought that hasn't broken yet." -- MELISSA MARINO Brian and Margie Rowe: a willingness to experiment.
Feb 07 - Mar 07 Supplement
Dec 06 - Jan 07