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Beyond the Bale : Apr - May 08
A South African perspective on shift to multi-purpose Andries Pienaar, of South Africa's 'Mega Merinos', shared his wisdom with woolgrowers recently during a two-week tour of Australia By Kellie Penfold H e's a Merino man from South Africa and he came to Australia to remind fellow woolgrowers that, in his opinion, there is no greater or more profitable animal than the Merino ewe. "I drive around the Riverina and see those magnificent irrigated sorghum and lucerne crops ... how I would love to put Merino ewes on those pastures;' says Andries Pienaar, who is the third generation of his family to run the 100- year-old 'Klipplaatsfontein Merinos' stud. "It is the greatest way to turn pastures into profit;' he told a gathering of woolgrowers at Young, in south-west NS"W; where he was guest speaker at the 'Merinos Looking Forward' seminar. Mr Pienaar, whose Merino enterprise, at Colesberg in South Africàs South Karoo region, was established in 1887 - and which is also known as 'Mega Merinos' - spent a fortnight in Australia on a tour organised by his old friend, sheep classer Gordon McMaster. In that time, Mr Pienaar addressed two seminars organised by AWl and Rural Industries Skill Training (RIST) - at Young, NS"W; and Hamilton, Victoria - judged the Peppin Shaw Riverina Ewe Flock Competition at Hay, the Don Brown Memorial Merino Ewe Field Day in Condobolin and spoke at a seminar in Western Australia organised by the Western Australian Stud Breeders association. When more than 100 woolgrowers turned out at Young, Mr Pienaar spoke on the topic 'the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing: ''And the main thing is productivity;' he said. "There is no way you can survive without it, and that is what you have to focus on to survive and stay on the land. "Marketing is the force that propels your business into future relevance. If you don't come up to scratch in your industry you will be just taken off the face of the earth. No one feels sorry for you." 'Mega Merinos' embarked on a journey 30 years ago to keep its product relevant. Mr Pienaar illustrated that evolution with a presentation comparing the Merinos he bred in the 1970s - highly wrinkled animals with small rears - with those he breeds today, which is a large, plain-bodied, multi-purpose Merino. Today, 30 per cent of his production is in wool and 70 per cent in meat. 'Mega Merinos' produces a sheep that does not need mulesing, is shorn every eight months with 20-micron wool (down from a starting point of 2 5), from an early maturing, high-fertility ewe base which produces lambs that are quick to reach target weights for the meat market. Mr Pienaar had someone calculate how much more money he would have made ifhe had run the enterprise this way for the whole of the 44 years he has been in charge of the stud. For every 1000 ewes he ran in that time he would have made an extra $1 million. "Wool is the greatest fibre in the world and there are 6.2 billion customers out there with your money in their pockets. We want our Merino wool in the elite boutiques of the world. "What other animal only consumes three per cent of its body weight in food daily, double that amount when in lamb and triples it with a lamb at foot, drinks five litres of water a day, delivers three litres of phosphate-rich urine to your paddock a day and half a kilogram of the best compost you will find? They are harvesting machines for your fuel facto ry." Mr Pienaar views his farm with its 400 millimetres of average annual rainfall as an outdoor fuel factory and the sheep as machines to utilise that fuel. Dryland paddocks are rotation-grazed with six-month rests between grazing periods. On pastures irrigated with centre pivots, he achieves a stocking rate of 40 ewes per hectare using an electric-fence- based cell-grazing system. Ewes on these pastures achieve a lambing rate of up to 180 per cent. "Stock management is everything. You need to keep your animals in good health. We take dung samples on the 18th day of each month from five sheep from each flock on irrigated pastures to help break the cycle of parasite madness." "The fleece-to-body-weight percentage always needs to be balanced;' he said. "Once the fleece weight is more than 12 per cent of body weight, it affects fertility drastically." Mr Pienaar said Merino producers around the world could not afford to sit back and wait for wool markets to improve. Instead, there needs to be a constant strategic marketing plan. 0 More information: www.megamerinos.co.za o --I o Z w a... w ::::i --I W Ö Õ I a... 13 BREEDING BEYONDTHE BALE South Africa's 'Mega Merinos' then, in the 1970s (top), and now (above) - which do not need mulesing, 'Mega Merinos' breeding objectives: o a high lambing percentage across the ewe flock (currently averaging 145 per cent); o good milk production and mothering ability, with lambs weaned at three months and 50 per cent of the mother's body weight; o carcases that dress at 48 per cent of live weight; and o fleece wool quality suited to the demands of the world's top fleece lines and representing 10 to 12 per cent of body weight. 'Mega Merinos' produces a sheep that does not need mulesing. Andries Pienaar: there is no greater or more profitable animal than the Merino ewe.
Feb - Mar 08
Jun - Jul 08 Supplement