BRIGHT, white good quality wool remains the focus for the 3600-head Merino flock at “Thurles”, Wallabadah.
Manager Peter Musgrave has worked on the 930-hectare property for the Sutton family for 30 years, working for the late Thora Sutton for 27 years and now running the property for her daughters Rosemary and Cathy and their families.
“They’re both based in Sydney but they’re up here all the time, so they’re very involved in the property,” he said.
Rams from Airlie Merinos, Uralla, have been used for 38 years.
“They’ve continued the tradition of bright, white crimpy wool which we seem to grow very successfully down here,” Mr Musgrave said.
“(Airlie principal) Murray (Power) plays a huge role in our direction with his rams, because they’ve increased our cuts by 1.2 kilograms over the past six years while maintaining the micron of 17.5- to 18.5-micron throughout the whole flock.
“Because it’s only a small property, the dry spells make it very difficult to maintain a lot of wool on the sheep every year, but we’ve got the genetic base to do well.”
Rams are chosen based on wool style and micron.
“I always buy rams within one micron, and that’s the way we’ve been able to maintain a steady low micron with a good wool cut.”
Over the years he’s seen a huge shift in the market and seasons, and the effort to improve the flock is paying off.
“Our last wool growing season was very good through spring, summer and autumn, but it’s a different ball game this year with bugger all rain in winter and a very ordinary spring so the feed is quite short, which will play havoc with wool cuts,” Mr Musgrave said.
“We were lucky that we had one of the best woolgrowing years and the market was rewarding
“The wool we sold recently made a top price of 2000 cents a kilogram for 16-micron wool off young sheep and the adult sheep came in at 1700c/kg and 1800c/kg.
“They’re the best prices we’ve had since 2002.
“If you provide the wool buyers with good quality, bright, white, clean wool with good micron and yields, they’ll look for your wool every year.”
The sheep are run on a mix of native grasses and improved pastures.
“Those pastures have a lot of ryegrasses and clovers and given the right season, that provides enough nourishment for the stock,” Mr Musgrave said.
“We’re feeding at the moment to give the ewes to give them a boost through pregnancy and lambing.
“They get a small ration of faba beans three times a week – faba beans have the highest protein which is the key to keeping a sound animal.
“Even though it’s dry, the ewes and their lambs are looking extremely good.”
Mr Musgrave keeps most of the wethers and about 400 to 500 ewes each year.
Wethers are run on the higher country due to wild dog problems.
“Dogs come and go here. We might might go six months and not have a kill, then we could have three or four paddocks where multiple dogs will attack.”