WETHERS play an important component of the wool production enterprise at Hampshire Station, Merriwa.
Manager, John Halsted, said Merino wethers utilise the steeper country within the 7895 hectare property nestled among the hills and valleys from 500 to 1200 metres above sea level off the Great Dividing Range north west of town.
“They run with our Angus herd of 1200 breeders and it is a good mix in this grazing country,” he said.
He and wife,Jill, have managed the business since 1998 and have changed wool growing and sheep management directions from the original 22,000 sheep to now joining 5000 ewes of Roseville Park blood in autumn for a spring lamb.
“Originally the property was breeding its own flock rams from a cross of Gunbar and Pemcaw blood,” he said.
“But I could not see the benefit and I felt the flock was not getting anywhere, so changed direction to buying rams direct from one stud.
“I feel studs do the genetics better and clients benefit, so we have been on Roseville Park for at least 15 years.”
Mr Halsted believes in this period the flock overall has “put on at least a kilo extra wool and taken at least two microns off.
“Wethers are classed-up at 12 months and about 20 per cent are sold and the balance are run to five year-olds.
“We did reduce the wether portion for a period and joined our classed-out ewes to Border Leicesters for first cross production but when we crunched the figures we were not doing much better than what the wether enterprise was doing.
“And wethers utilise this steeper country a lot better; they are only handled twice a year – when brought in for shearing and crutching.”
The wethers grow an average 19 micron wool and cut an average eight kilogram fleece.
Mr Halsted said the property has a high worm burden.
“So from weaning to the hogget months is pretty crucial and needs careful management,” he said.
“We intensively feed our lambs grain and hay when they come off their mothers to give them that start and manage the worm program pretty closely.”
Merinos, Angus mix keep it simple
Once Merino wethers get past 12 months they are generally right with two drenches a year at shearing and crutching on Hampshire Station, Merriwa.
Close to 4000 wethers are run in four age groups with 1000 in each on the property near Merriwa which manager, John Halsted, says is ideal country for the Merino sheep and Angus cattle breeding mix.
“That number has come back some since we increased cattle numbers,” he said.
“We were running 7000 to 8000 wethers but now as we run all our weaner cattle on this steeper western side as well, the steers and heifer share paddocks with the sheep.”
The station was running 20,000 Merinos but this number has been reduced to between 12,000 to 14,000 head all run with the 1200 Angus breeders on all natural pastures.
Mr Halsted said he’s running a “very basic operation”.
“There’s nothing too complex about it, just an economy of scale,” he said.