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Beyond the Bale : Dec 06 - Jan 07
9 PROFITABILITY BEYOND THE BALE By Fiona Conroy The Merino breed was the big winner at the inaugural Merino Wether Lamb Challenge at the National Merino Ram Show and Sale in Dubbo, with 120 commercial Merino wether lambs being valued as a package at more than $110 a head. The Merino lambs proved they were capable of producing a carcase competitive with export- weight prime lambs, while also producing a profitable fleece and pelt after being shorn then finished for 10 weeks off-shears. Forty teams, each made up of three Merino wether lambs bred in Victoria, NSW and ueensland, took part in the Challenge and were displayed at Dubbo before being sold over the hooks at Fletcher International. The 120 Merino wether lambs involved grossed $13,294.88 and averaged $110.79 a head. The highest-valued lambs in the inaugural Challenge were bred by Glen and Margot Rubie from Forbes in central-west NSW. Their winning pen of lambs returned an average value of $153.54 a head. The Rubies' wethers had an average carcase yield of 49.9 per cent and weight of 41.3 kilograms dressed, cut 6.3kg of 19.1 micron wool worth $32.95 and had a skin value of $6.50. The top 18 lambs in the Challenge had an average value of $135.13 a head. Event organiser and sheep classer Ian Marwedel says the Challenge results demonstrate the potential of the Merino. "The Merino is effectively a dual-purpose sheep and we need to promote it as a package of meat, wool and a pelt," he says. "It has been shown that the Merino lamb hangs up, fat scores and, most importantly, tastes the equal of, if not better than, its competitors. "Some people don't realise the potential of their Merino sheep. We have to convince more people to value-add their lambs rather than letting them go for $25 to $30. The Challenge demonstrated the profitability of commercial Merino wether lambs through the efforts of 28 switched- on breeders from all over eastern Australia. It's time to challenge other breeds and show people they are better off sticking with Merino sheep and value-adding their wether lambs with grain when it's possible." The Merino Wether Lamb Challenge was supported by AWI, Fletcher International, Rural Press, Lanoc Wool and Chad Wool Fleece Testing Ser vices. ú More information: Ian Marwedel, 02 6882 7830; Anne Ramsay, AWI project manager applied genetics, 03 9347 6059, firstname.lastname@example.org The flock lambs in July/August and the lambs are shorn the following April/May with nine to 10 months' wool.The bare- shorn wether portion of the flock is then fattened for six to eight weeks before being sold. The wethers are finished on lucerne if irrigation is available, but in recent years have been finished on grain.The fattened wethers still have their lamb's teeth and are sold over the hooks or through the Forbes Midstate saleyards. In the past four years, the Rubies' off- shears Merino wether lambs have averaged $95 (2003), $128 (2004), $98 (2005) and $87 (2006).This year, the wether lambs sold six to eight weeks off-shears had already cut an average of 5.8kg of 18.2 micron wool, worth more than $26 a head. The only wether lambs not included in the average were the lambs entered in the two pens of three wethers at the inaugural Merino Wether Lamb Challenge. The Rubies' two pens came first and second in terms of overall value and the whole six averaged a 41.26kg carcase dressed with a 49.9 per cent yield.When their carcase value was combined with their fleece value, the Rubies' winning pen of wethers returned a staggering $153.54 a head.Their second-placed pen averaged a value of $150.05 a head. "They were the heaviest lambs and had the highest fleece weight, value and the top carcase in the trial, which was very satisfying," Mr Rubie says. "We've always selected for big sheep with great wool and select our rams at 12 months so we get an early-maturing, long-bodied type." The Rubies previously ran a mix of crossbred and Merinos, but offloaded the crossbred sheep in favour of Merinos. "It's clear we can make more money from Merinos," Mr Rubie says. "Crossbred sheep eat their heads off -- we can run more Merino ewes per hectare than crossbred ewes and make more money per hectare. "Merinos have the flexibility of the wool and the lamb -- you don't get that flexibility with crossbreds. It's all about breeding the right sort of sheep and you don't need to go outside the Merino breed to do it." ú More information: Glen Rubie, 02 6857 2118 Challenge shows the potential of wether lambs A pen of lambs that returned $153.54 a head won the hotly contested Merino Wether Lamb Challenge Ask Forbes woolgrower Glen Rubie about the profitability of Merino sheep and his eyes glint.The key to Mr Rubie's smile is that Merino sheep are proving their value not just in wool, but in producing profitable prime lambs. Farming on the Lachlan River, in a 'normal' year Glen and Margot Rubie produce lucerne, lucerne seed and hay under irrigation as well as running a flock of about 1200 Merino ewes, including their Lachlan Merino stud. "We've always been passionate about our wool, but we also want big sheep," Mr Rubie says. Merinos stack up in profit stakes PHOTO: JACK MEAGHER Glen and Margot Rubie and their Challenge-winning flock.
Feb 07 - Mar 07