This is the third year Dean Lawton, Bobs Run, Gunning has entered his draft of Billa Burra Burra-blood maiden ewes in the Gunning Merino Flock Ewe Competition, and he takes part to support the local community and the annual show.
“It is a great day out and a chance to talk to other sheep breeders and look at different properties … there is great camaraderie,” Mr Lawton said.
“There are always new ideas which I might not have thought of and you get to listen to the comments from the judges who are looking at the sheep as outsiders.
“It is good to see someone kicking goals and think … I can do that.”
Mr Lawton said he also entered to improve the standard of his flock, and over the years comments from judges and other breeders have helped him along the way.
Having shorn in various sheds in the district for the past 29 years, he is not afraid of hard work and said it was the only way he was going to achieve his ambition of owning his own farm.
“I don’t mind shearing a sheep … I actually enjoy it,” Mr Lawton told the interested onlookers when they visited his display of maiden ewes during the competition.
“I like the physical work and when you get it right it is a good job.
“I enjoy working with sheep and breeding them to reach the type I want.”
He went on to say working in the many shearing sheds also gave him the chance to see what other sheep breeders were doing to lift their productivity.
“Never think what you are doing can’t be improved … if you stay at home all the time you never see what other people are doing,” Mr Lawton said.
For the past 12 years, Mr Lawton has sourced his rams from Keith McGrath, Billa Burra Burra, Yass selecting for bold crimping and long stapled fleeces on a larger frame than the tradition superfine type he started with.
“I changed when superfine wool prices were not giving me the return I wanted,” he said.
“Our fertility has lifted and with heavier wool cuts and larger frames in our sale sheep we are starting to reach our goals.”
Mr Lawton said with the correct use of CLIK and attention to selection of sheep with bright and free growing staples, even with the density of fleece allows him to cope with flystrike and fleece rot.
One strategy Mr Lawton has recently started is scanning his ewes for twins, and running the twinning mob separately to give them the better paddocks and opportunity to successfully raise their lambs.
“I had noticed over the past couple of years there was about a ten percent tail in the lambs which were probably the twins which weren’t being given a chance,” he said.
“But now that I separate them I can see a big difference.”
Conservative stocking eases the pain
Dean Lawton, Bobs Run, Gunning told visitors during the Gunning Merino flock ewe competition he has reduced the size of his flock to reduce costs but still maintains the productive standard he is achieving.
“I was reasonably conservative to start with, but backing off my numbers and staying with my core breeders has certainly made things a lot easier,” he said.
Not only did Mr Lawton enter his flock in the competition, but the flock he manages for Nammaroo Pastoral, Nerragundah, Gunning was also entered.
Mr Lawton has fed his flock on barley through the current drought, but was able to sow oats for grazing which was reasonably successful.
“We were able to get a bit of rain at the end of spring and I sowed some Millet and it paid off,” he said.
“It did provide a bit of green feed for the weaners over summer.”
Return judge James Derrick from Karoola Downs Poll Merinos, Gundagai thought Mr Lawton had done a great job keeping his flock in good condition during the drought, but made one suggestion.
“Your ewes are looking good, but if you didn’t have a mixed operation your Merino flock would probably be a bit better,” Mr Derrick said.
Mr Lawton runs cross-bred ewes as a separate enterprise.
“I have them for their income, but I did take note of what James said,” Mr Lawton said.
“Being in the competition stimulates the thought process.”