Merinos are proving profitable with both wool and lambs for Neil and David Allen at Rock View, near Mitiamo in northern Victoria.
The Allens usually run about 2000 ewes, joining two thirds to Merinos and the remaining to terminal White Suffolk sires, but they decreased to about 1400 in April last year to prepare for dry conditions.
"Our dry year strategy is to sell White Suffolks off before lambing, so we're back to all Merinos, but we're looking to get numbers up again gradually, keeping all ewes, except the dry ones," Neil Allen said.
"By our 2020 shearing, we should be back to 2000 ewes. We've had fairly good lambing percentages over last few years (118 per cent in 2018, 100pc this year), so that gives us a few ewes to retain."
The Allens have been using rams from Colin McCrabb's Avenel Merinos for more than 35 years.
"After the 1982 drought we went into sheep and bought some of their cast for age ewes, so we've been with them for a long time," Mr Allen said.
"They suit our environment and they have nice long, white, soft wool."
They focus on length of body, to make the most of the lamb market, along with good structure, and good wool type and length.
"Choosing for body length gives you a better framed wether lamb," Mr Allen said.
"They're worth the same cents per kilogram as the White Suffolk lambs, then you've got the first wool clip off them as well.
"We also try to pick the heavier cutting rams. Last year the ewes cut just over seven kilograms, around 18-micron, in a fairly tough season."
Adding a lick to the ewes nutrition prior to joining is paying off. The Allens also scan for multiples and singles, with the multiples being managed in smaller mobs.
"We make sure they're fed well, keep them in condition, and before lambing we'll give them a lead up lick to boost their minerals, which seems to quieten them down so they stay with their lambs better."
Most ewes are retained and all wether lambs are finished and sold after shearing.
Choosing for body length gives you a better framed wether lamb.They're worth the same cents per kilogram as the White Suffolk lambs, then you've got the first wool clip off them as well.
"Last year they were sold straight off mothers after weaning, but we can finish them in a feedlot.
"Being graingrowers (with about 1800 hectares of cropping) we've got hay and grain so they'll get barley, vetch hay and straw with a supplement to help them along.
"They're on a lick feeder pretty much all year and the ewes are on improved pastures, fodder rape and brassica. We've grown that in the last few years and it's been good."
The family has been rewarded with strong wool and lamb prices.
"This year has been pretty good, and the year before we just caught the wool market as it was starting to go down but 2018 was still our biggest cheque ever," Mr Allen said.