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Beyond the Bale : Feb 07 - Mar 07
By Kellie Penfold When David Glasson was a boy growing up on 'Jimenbuen' at Dalgety, NSW, wool was king. There was an army of workers to run the 4000-hectare property and its large homestead, and sheep grazed the days away, making you money. Today it is just Mr Glasson, his wife Jane and a part- time employee, but he still firmly believes wool is king and despite moving into lamb, beef cattle and cereal and fodder production, it remains their most profitable and "enjoyable" enterprise. However, the sheep themselves no longer enjoy a leisurely life: they have to perform and lift the Glasson's bottom line, which they have done, improving it by $75,000 after six years of strict classing and data collection. Today the Glassons run nearly 5000 Merino ewes -- 1200 of which are joined to Dorsets -- 2000 wethers and 3300 hoggets with a stocking rate of 5.7 dry sheep equivalent (DSE) per hectare (down, due to dry conditions). The average micron is 18.5 -- down from 20.1 in 2002 -- and 17.75 kilograms of wool are produced per sheep-grazed hectare. Worried about their bottom line and the quality of their wool, which suffered from fleece rot and short staples, the Glassons started mid-side sampling in 2000, and then employed a classer to manage the classing of all sheep. "I wanted to grow wool I felt proud of," Mr Glasson says. The couple instigated a system of putting sheep into micron groups where different coloured tags are used to indicate the micron range of individual sheep, from 16 to 22.9 micron. This forms the basis for managing those sheep, at classing, joining, shearing and sale. All sheep are shorn in micron groups to maximise returns from the prevailing wool market. "When things get a bit tougher it makes it easier to decide which sheep should be sold first: those that are performing the worst," Mr Glasson says. "Detractors would say it's extra work and an extra cost, but you are not going to make extra money if you are not prepared to do the extra work. Making money from Monaro Merinos After six years of strict classing and data collection, David and Jane Glasson's Merinos have lifted their profits by $75,000 11 ON-FARM BEYOND THE BALE "We are not chasing micron, we are chasing profit. We are focusing on the aspects of wool production which make you money. "Old timers say you can't make much money from young wethers. We used to cut 4.5kg of 21 to 22-micron wool off 12-month-old wethers. We shore some the other day at 11 months and the fleece average was seven kilograms at 17 micron." Mr Glasson says making money from Merinos should be straightfor ward once you understand how to interpret the data. "Using tools such as side sampling and visuals you get a much more accurate assessment of where the flock is at. I felt the old way of classing was to take some sheep from the bottom and some sheep from the top to keep the average. "Another way of assessing how we were going was entering wether trials. In our first trial our team came third, and at the final shearing we were second for the finest wool and first in the heaviest-cutting sheep. "From the bottom to the top in trial performance there was a $100-a-head difference, so you look at where you can make that profit." Mr Glasson welcomes the introduction of more bloodline information to the industry through Sheep Genetics Australia. "Be it wheat, be it lamb, be it steers -- you get feedback on what makes you the dollars. That should be the foundation of an enterprise. Nowadays, I am selling sheep purely on this data to other woolgrowers who haven't even seen them: they can tell from the information how they are performing. "I heard a bloke say the other day, it's not worth paying good money for rams because wool's not worth much. Surely, that ram could be the crucial investment to make more from wool." The next stage for the Glassons is to make the on-farm management of their flock easier with more laneways, improved internal and external parasite management and electronic identification, thus helping them cope with lower labour units. But Mr Glasson adds: "The belt would be a lot tighter if we didn't make the changes we did." ú More information: David Glasson, 02 6456 6714, email@example.com Monaro wool producer David Glasson. PHOTO: KELLIE PENFOLD
Feb 07 - Mar 07 Supplement
Dec 06 - Jan 07