A firm believer in what gets measured gets managed, Richard Keniry, is changing his superfine Merino flock to fine-medium at Kildara, in the Eurimbla district near Cumnock.
“A lot of people collect information, but don’t actually use it well,” he said.
However, Merino Production’s use of fleece weight and body weight in recent years has seen the Kildara Merinos productivity improve in “leaps and bounds”.
A member of MerinoLink, Mr Keniry is taking and using information to make better decisions.
Managing the 2500-hectare property in partnership with parents, John and Diane, he is joining 5000 Merino ewes with a target to increase to 7000 when seasons improve. Mulesing stopped in 2007.
The transition to a slightly broader micron takes time, and Mr Keniry is making every stage a winner.
“We are coming from a sub-15 to 16 micron New England style for some years, to a 17 to 17.5 micron target,” he said.
To do this he has shifted to Roseville Park rams in recent years and is also working on increasing the fleece weights to an average of six kilograms.
“At this stage we are sitting between 4.5kg and 5.5kg, averaging 5kg,” he said.
Using Merino Production indexes for ram selection, Mr Keniry said his primary aim was to chase fleece weights.
“So I’m selecting from high indexing rams that are fleece weight driven, not worrying too much on micron, but having a fair emphasis on weaning and yearling body weights.”
Using electronic tags for easy identification, all lambs are body weighed at weaning and growth rates are checked again at eight weeks post weaning.
His target for adult ewe weights is 60kg to 65kg.
“I’m looking at these weights which I believe will increase productivity in the flock overall,” he said.
“I had gone down the (path of a) bigger type of animal, but woolcut per hectare went down and lambs per hectare reduced.
“I had more twinners and less ewes and while I might have had a better fertility rate in those ewes, it didn’t necessarily mean I was producing more animals per hectare.”
Mr Keniry said the huge animals had high fertility, but they actually produced as many lambs as they would if he had another 120 per cent more smaller ewes.
He said he would stay with one shearing at present, but may look to two in years to come.
“Coming out of a fine wool flock we don’t have the staple length yet for two shearings,” he said.
“I’m not comfortable that the length would cut that 60 millimetres and if it goes below, the price return is not worth it. But it doesn’t mean I may not look at it in the future.”
Shearing is at the end of February with ewes joined off the board in early March.
No mulesing at Kidara since 2007
Kildara manager, Richard Keniry, said not mulesing since 2007 and using crutching as a preventative measure saves on the use of chemicals.
“We crutch at lambing and later if we have to, we’ll crutch again to avoid using chemicals,” he said.
The mixture of native and improved pastures at Kildara, Cumnock, enables a fairly intensive rotational grazing program.
“We are not holistic management and we are not traditional,” he said.
“I do focus quite a lot on soil biology and leaving ground cover, but do use synthetic fertilisers and monitor grazing.
"I call it an intensive rotational system.”
He runs big mobs of 1500 to 2000 ewes in small paddocks for a couple of days and most mobs would be moved at least once or twice a week.
However, lambing ewes are set-stocked.
While Mr Keniry said management was moving more towards an all Merino operation, the mix of crossbreeding for prime lamb production is slowing.
Near half the ewe flock is joined to Suffolk or Dorset terminal sires and lambs finished on an irrigation block at Goolagong.
This flock is made up of classed-out maidens from the main flock and also body and fleece weighed, micron tested and indexed.
Anything that doesn’t fit conformation criteria such as feet, face and visual characteristics, or has fly strike in the first year, is also classed out.