Selecting for yearling, fleece weight at The Rock

Selecting for yearling, fleece weight at The Rock


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The Kingston family is looking to increase Merino numbers at Yarrawah, The Rock.

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INCREASING MERINO NUMBERS: David Kingston with his Merino sheep. The Kingston family runs about Merino 5000 ewes, and plan to join 3000 to Merino rams.

INCREASING MERINO NUMBERS: David Kingston with his Merino sheep. The Kingston family runs about Merino 5000 ewes, and plan to join 3000 to Merino rams.

Merinos are the focus at Yarrawah, The Rock, where the Kingston family is looking to increase numbers.

The Kingstons - John and Sue, David and Bec, and Charles and Emma - join about 5000 Merino ewes each year, with 2000 joined to Merinos and about 3000 to Poll Dorset rams, but they're looking to streamline the operation, focusing more on the Merinos.

"We're working towards 3000 joined to Merinos, and 2000 to Poll Dorsets, because then we don't have to be buying replacement ewes, and that gets us away from having a lot of older sheep," David Kingston said.

"At the moment, the ewes to terminal rams are joined to them every year, but we'd like to join everything to a Merino for the first three years, then the older ewes can be joined to terminals.

"We keep the terminal portion so we can lighten the load come January and February, so we haven't got 3000 extra sheep hanging around."

The flock is running at 19- to 19.5-micron, with fleece weight just under seven kilograms a head, Mr Kingston said.

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The family has been using genetics from The Yanko stud, based at Jerilderie, for the past six years.

"We've been chasing better wool cut and it has improved," Mr Kingston said.

"They're good, big framed Riverina Merino sheep, and The Yanko uses Merino Production Plus (index) with the ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values) so I try to select rams on fleece weight and yearling weight.

"We seem to be getting good growth in our lambs and we've increased our wool cut so they're ticking the boxes."

Ewes are fed grain prior to joining, which has helped improve lambing rates.

"We didn't have a good joining this year but we'd normally wean about 100 per cent lambs."

Mr Kingston's goal is to turn all crossbred lambs off as quickly as possible.

"We put the lick feeders out with ewes and lambs to

train the lambs onto the grain, then wean at the end of September and they'll run on lucerne-based pastures until they're sold.

"We lamb in July and the goal is to have a third of them gone before Christmas."

Merino lambs are usually sold at the end of June after being grazed on crops.

All wether lambs are sold over the hook.

We seem to be getting good growth in our lambs and we've increased our wool cut so they're ticking the boxes. - David Kingston

"This year we got good staple length and a reasonable wool cut, about 3.5kg off them. After shearing we'll put them on the wheat crops if we get the opportunity, which depends on the season.

"If we shear the Merinos in March, when we sell them in June, they have eight- to 10-week skins on them, so you're paid for the skin as well. We got $17 for skins in one sale this year."

Using the Department of Primary Industries drought feed calculator app is allowing a more economical use of feed. The free app calculates the minimum feed requirements and determines cost effective feed rations.

"We'll run the numbers on the hay we've got, and barley, and work out what's the best mix using that tool," Mr Kingston said.

"We've been using the calculator since it came out and it's helped the feed go further.

"The ration is generally lighter than I would have traditionally fed, but it's enough.

"It's helpful on the financial side, because it allows us to evaluate the cost of different feeds, and the energy and protein percentages.

"We've also got a drought lot that we use, and this year they went in there at the end of February and stayed there until start of June. That allows our pastures to recover and get away when the autumn breaks come."

The Kingstons have about 1800 hectares of pastures and 2200ha of cropping, mainly wheat, with canola and barley.

WORKING ON FLEECE WEIGHT: Merino sheep at Yarrawah, The Rock.

WORKING ON FLEECE WEIGHT: Merino sheep at Yarrawah, The Rock.

Some of the cropping country will be grazed prior to harvest, but they're still trialling lambs on canola.

"We'd like to graze more canola, because lambs explode on it, they do really well, but we've got to work out how it will fit in with the rest of the cropping program.

"We're not harvesting canola until after the wheat, so we don't want to be windrowing during the middle of the wheat harvest.

"We've had recommendations for hybrid canolas that aren't grazing varieties, but we'll sow them early, graze them and see how it goes."

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