Story sponsored by Karrawarra.
As feed carts roll out in the big dry and the pressure mounts, one farming operation in the Riverina is seeing a resilient and efficient sheep continue to produce in dry times.
Leo and Vanessa Herbert are a fourth generation farming family from Eurongilly, NSW, and for the past four years have been working closely with Focus Genetics, developing an industry leading sheep stud utilizing the Highlander and Focus-Prime breeds.
Focus Genetics is one of the largest red meat stud breeding operations in the world and offers enormous genetic support and advice to Mr Herbert and his team at Karrawarra.
Karrawarra is the nucleus flock for Highlander and Focus-Prime in Australia, breeding the Highlander as a stabilised breed to drive fertility, survival and profitability, and the Focus-Prime to drive meat yield and eating quality.
"We are committed to these breeds," Mr Herbert said.
Highlanders bred as a maternal composite are highly efficient animals that drive profitability through their moderate adult weight of 65kgs, while weaning up to 180 percent. Lambs grow fast to supply the trade market at 22kgs, with all lambs gone by 18 weeks.
The Focus-Prime terminal sire delivers low birth weight and high growth rates, while being a trait leader in eating quality. Supplying animals that drive production efficiency is Karrawarra's focus.
Due to Highlanders' moderate weight, the breed has proven to be a star performer through the extended drought period.
"Do the sums. It takes 20 percent less feed to maintain a 65kg ewe than it does to maintain an 85kg ewe. If you're feeding a thousand ewes for a week, that's a saving of $400," Mr Herbert said.
"As well as this, we aim to have ewes lambing down at 12 months, which increases the productivity over the lifetime of the ewe."
Aside from the savings in feed costs, the Highlanders are proving to be extremely hardy and have maintained condition quite easily on dry feed.
The Herberts also run an extensive commercial sheep enterprise of 7500 ewes. Mr Herbert quickly saw the potential of the Highlander. So, for the past three years he has used them over his ewes and it is now paying dividends.
"Our ewe weights are coming down, our feed bill is coming down and our scanning percentages and survival is going up. Our bank manager is happy too. It a win-win for us," Mr Herbert said.
Hannah Anderson, the stud manager for Karrawarra, worked with Focus Genetics in Australia before starting her role with Karrawarra. Her knowledge and passion of sheep breeding and her close relationship with the Focus team made her the perfect fit for Karrawarra.
She says the Highlander has been very popular for both self-replacing composite flocks as well as more traditional first-cross enterprises.
"Probably the biggest advantage our clients see is the moderate ewe size, coupled with immediate increases in fertility and survival from the first cross. They also deliver in terms of efficiency per hectare, manageability and the shearers love them," Ms Anderson explained.
"The Highlanders are excellent mothers from day-dot. The weaning percentage is what's really amazing. We lose very few lambs with very little input," she continued.
"Survival is extremely high. A lot of customers come to us because of losses through lambing and huge adult ewe weights."
Karrawarra has an existing extensive client list that covers all Australian states throughout a range of climates. They will be running their annual summer ram lamb sale on January 28, by private treaty with 250 rams up for selection.
For more information on these exciting breeds or to book your selection time call, Ms Anderson on 0438 554 356 or Mr Herbert on 0429 434 223.
Story sponsored by Karrawarra.