Gordon Oxenbridge is pushing to get extra wool density into his family’s 1300-head Merino breeding flock to keep out dust.
Mr Oxenbridge, his wife, Mavis, and their son, Rodney, and his wife, Tamika, operate a cropping and sheep business on 3000ha based at “Stanmore”, Tallimba, south west of West Wyalong.
They have been gradually switching to rams from Hugh and Heather Cameron’s The Yanko Merino stud near Jerilderie during the past three years on the advice of their sheep classer, Michael Elmes, Narrandera.
They experienced a major dermatitis outbreak in their lambs during a wet 2016 (mainly on their backs) but they noticed the problem wasn’t as bad in the lambs produced by their first batch of The Yanko rams.
They are using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) to identify rams that will keep increasing wool cuts and body weight in their flock along with producing quicker maturing lambs. The rams are around 20 microns.
Their maiden ewes are now producing about eight kilograms of wool.
Mr Oxenbridge said they had enjoyed high lambing percentages in the past two years including 115 per cent this year.
They lambed their ewes in the middle of May and marked the lambs at the end of July.
Quick maturity is a key trait for the Oxenbridges who aim to sell their young wethers while they are still lambs (before they cut their two teeth) at around 55kg liveweight through Wagga Wagga saleyards.
They finish the wethers in an on-farm feedlot and feed them a mix of cereals (barley, wheat and some oats) along with lupins.
The wethers are shorn before sale. This year’s wether turn-off averaged $175 during June and also cut $45 worth of wool in March which Mr Oxenbridge said was a pleasing outcome.
Some of their surplus Merino ewes are joined to White Suffolk rams but Mr Oxenbridge said they struggled to sell them as suckers because of prevailing seasonal conditions in the district.
While the Oxenbridges, like just about every other farmer in NSW, have been battling challenging seasonal conditions they did score 30mm in the middle of June which has kept crops going.
They have been able to graze sheep on Kittyhawk wheat but have now locked up the crop hoping for a grain harvest at the end of the year.
Mr Oxenbridge said introduction of The Yanko rams had removed some wrinkle from their sheep.
“We are looking for ewes with a good constitution and are easy care,” he said.
The Oxenbridges aim to shear their ewes in April and lamb six weeks later.
He said this year’s wool prices were “exceptional”.