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Beyond the Bale : March 2017
When they were shearing, Eric says he and Phillip had witnessed many clips that were bright, fine and softer handling than their own wool, so they made it their mission to improve their wool quality. “Previously we had parts of the fleece, usually from the back of the sheep, that we had to separate because of the dust and the poor condition of the wool, particularly if we had just come off the back of a dry and windy year,” Eric says. “To change this, we knew we had to concentrate, not only on the condition of the flock and the nutrition, but the bloodlines as well.” These days, wool with the Wichatopping brand consistently achieves 17-19 microns, and can yield up to 68 per cent. “Those sorts of numbers were almost unheard of not too long ago, but we’ve been really careful with our breeding program, and we never buy rams just because we need to fill the quota,” Eric says. The Inneses have been buying rams from a local stud for many years, and Eric attributes the improvement in the wool clip to this consistent bloodline. Wayne Button, who owns Mununda Stud in Tammin says understanding the genetic lines and knowing the backgrounds of the stud rams is critical to the improvement of the flock. “The Inneses have been using the same bloodline for many years now, they know the rams they are purchasing and they know where the genetics come from. The proof of this strategy really has been in the consistent improvement they have seen in the quality of their sheep and the quality of their wool clip over the past three decades,” he says. “Seeing their results improve every year has been extremely rewarding, and classing a quality fleece certainly makes the job much easier.” INCREASINGLY PROFITABLE AND LOW RISK OPTION Central wheatbelt stock agent Rex Leurs, who has been representing farmers across the region for nearly 30 years, believes more farmers should be considering Merinos in their rotations. He says contrary to what some may believe, the drier conditions of WA’s central wheatbelt are perfectly suited to Merinos. “In areas of lower rainfall, like large portions of the wheatbelt, cropping yields can be limited and gross margins on sheep compare very favourably to grain production,” he says. Mr Luers says a wool and meat enterprise provides an increasingly profitable, low risk option, to include in the whole farm rotation profile. “Also, there is much less volatility in the price of both meat and wool, in comparison to the annual fluctuations seen in the grain prices. The current wool and meat market means that the gross margins from a self-replacing Merino flock really are worth considering," he says. “Unlike 20 years ago, we now have Merino breeding available locally here in the wheatbelt to produce a heavy cutting, plain bodied, fertile Merino sheep.” Son Mitchell, who returned to the farm in 2009, is also committed to retaining sheep in the Wichatopping business in the long term. “Our clip is getting better and better every year – it’s an exciting industry to be in.” Mixed farmer Eric Innes “Apart from the fact that Dad really likes his sheep, they have much lower costs and a much lower risk profile than the grain part of the business,” says Mitchell. “We have been doing really well out of the sheep for the past few years, and they have been a part of the business for over 80 years now.” Eric is convinced sheep are an excellent fit for his central wheatbelt business. “I get too much enjoyment out of them, it’s what I like to do. And our clip is getting better and better every year – it’s an exciting industry to be in,” he says. The Inneses in the Wichatopping shearing shed in which they have recently installed a new wool press and new shearing heads. The Inneses, pictured with sheepdog Boof, are so positive about the wool industry that the business has invested in new sheep yards. The Wichatopping farm business has recently sold its biggest wool clip in its 83-year history – 150 bales – at record prices. ON FARM 27
In the Shops - March 2017