USING Petali Poll Merino rams has helped Uralla woolgrowers David and Sue Garrahy increase wool cut, decrease micron and improve worm resistance in their flock.
The Garrahys run about 600 ewes and 500 wethers at their 210-hectare property “Meadowlea” and on another three smaller leased blocks.
Mr Garrahy, a full-time shearer for 30 years, started breeding sheep with Jim and Dorothy Ryan in 1995.
“Jim bought and sold sheep but we started a breeding program to produce traditional New England superfine Merino sheep. In 2009 Jim retired and we bought some of his country off him and leased the rest.”
Mr Garrahy started shearing for Petali owners Martin and Cheryl Oppenheimer in 2005, and began using his rams in 2012.
“I liked what I saw with Martin’s breeding approach,” he said.
“The biggest problem for us at the time was worms and I saw how worm resistance was his number one priority. All my sheep are run under a set stocked system but they can still handle the worm burden.”
Worm egg count is the main priority when selecting rams, along with structure, frame and wool type.
“I’ve targeted the finer sheep,” Mr Garrahy said.
“I like his wool type and the amount of wool they cut. The wethers were cutting about 3.5 kilograms this year as three-year-olds and they cut 4.8kg at 11 months. The Petali rams have really increased the wool cut and the frame of my sheep. We’ve picked up the wool cut, easily 1.5kg, and our wool is about half a micron finer.
“And after having the polled sheep I don’t think I could go back to horned rams, because they’re just that much easier to work with and look after.”
Mr Garrahy has increased wether numbers in recent years, keeping them to three or four years of age.
“They’re more durable and you don’t have the maintenance that you have in the ewes. If you have to make a decision to start offloading early, the wethers can go at any stage.”
Wethers are also able to handle country with no inputs.
“The ewes are mainly on supered native grasses with a few clovers and ryegrasses, while the wethers are on the leased blocks, and they’re not supered which is an advantage.”
Using Petali rams has also helped limit wool preparation for market, Mr Garrahy said.
“We used to traditionally prepare all our wool, but this wool is a lot more uniform so we only have to do a light minimal skirt then sell through Fox and Lillie as one big line. Cost wise, that’s made a big difference as we can offer a better, more uniform line, and it’s not as much work in the shed.”