Time efficiency is a main factor in the running of the livestock enterprise at “Annaleey”, Armidale.
Primary producer, Neil Clayton, who has been in the wool game “all of his life”, and farming at the New England property for 45 years, says he likes to keep busy.
He runs 1500 self-replacing Alfoxton-blood Merino ewes as well as a line of wether lambs.
Another portion of Merino ewes, which have been classed out as tail-enders, plus a few more bought in, are joined back to White Suffolks for the prime lamb market. He also likes to trade in about 100 cattle at any given time.
Grazed over 1215 hectares, shearers will take on about 5000 sheep at the annual June/July shearing.
“Everything is shorn at that time,” Mr Clayton said.
“They are shorn with snow-combs because of the often freezing temperatures in the New England.
“Nine month-old wether lambs will cut about three kilograms of wool, weighing 35kgs before they are sold straight off the boards as store lambs.”
His ewe portion, averaging a 17.5-micron fleece, cut about of 4.5 to five kilograms of wool annually.
His aim is the 18-micron category, simply because of the volume of wool that can be produced.
“I am considering moving to an eight-month shearing cycle, because of the amount of wool they produce,” Mr Clayton said.
“But it is a big move – it means changing the pattern of lambing – I would have ewes lambing in wool, so I could be risking a break in the wool. I’m not quiet convinced yet.”
The wool is sold straight after the shearers have finished their runs, and the bales are trucked off - no forward contracts.
“I sold my wool earlier this year and the wool job has improved since then,” Mr Clayton said.
“But I still averaged 1200 cents per kilo. I do feel that the wool job will stay where it peaked at the end of 2016, especially for quality wool.”
Learning wool classing straight out of school, Mr Clayton performs the duty himself at Annaleey as well as the classing of ewes.
The two main traits he looks for when considering his flock are frame and wool quality and volume.
“If I have anything that comes through that maybe a risk of flystrike, I generally cull,” he said.
Mr Clayton abandoned mulesing 10 years ago, saying he has never looked back, with no flystrike problems ever arising.
“It was initially to target the premium in our wool market, but it also cuts out that extra cost,” he said. “I still manage the risk by back-lining in December.”
He buys between five and 10 rams a year from Alfoxton joining 30 rams to his 1500 ewes.
At “Annaleey” Merino ewes are joined on April 1 for a September or spring flush lambing. “The lambs will hope fully thrive in the beginning of the spring,” Mr Clayton said.
“That is, weather permitting, but hopefully the season is on the improve and logically we are going into the ‘good times’. You like to think the lambs will continue on.”
Ewes are grain fed through feeders prior to and after lambing.
He doesn’t seperate his ewes in lamb with twins from the singles and says by using feeders, and not having them chase a ute with feed, the mothers wander to and from at their leisure. He rarely has a problem with miss-mothering.
The stock are kept in larger mob sizes for ease of management. For efficient time management all stock are drenched at once through the use of contractors – it is finished within two days.
“That means I can concentrate on other things,” Mr Clayton said. “There are so many facets to my enterprise I can’t afford to have any problems with worms or flies. I need to be able to do the job and move on.”
The top-line of wether lambs are sold as one line while his classed out ewes and wethers as sold together as a mixed mob. As a rule, both are generally sold through AuctionsPlus. “When a sell, I advertise they are Alfoxton-blood – it draws a premium and return clients,” Mr Clayton said.
“They grow into a well-grown article that cuts a lot of wool.”