Profit the focus for Merino breeder

Tallawong brings passion and profit

Business Profiles
TALLAWONG: Frank Kaveney, Tallawong Merinos stud principal, has a passion for breeding and an eye for profitability.

TALLAWONG: Frank Kaveney, Tallawong Merinos stud principal, has a passion for breeding and an eye for profitability.

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Frank Kaveney's Tallawong Merinos and Poll Merinos stud has a sharp, commercial focus married with a passion for breeding great wool.

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Business Profile

Frank Kaveney's Tallawong Merinos and Poll Merinos stud has a sharp, commercial focus married with a passion for breeding great wool.

Near Yass on the NSW Southern Tablelands and close to the ACT's northern border, both flocks were run with a "strong business-orientated approach to grazing", producing profitable sheep and superb wools.

Mr Kaveney was proud of Tallawong's 25 years of consistent top-end wether trial performance and more recent MLP Sire Evaluation involvement.

Ram classer and advisor Craig Wilson, Wagga Wagga, assisted Tallawong to further improve fleece weights, frame stretch and growth while enhancing the wool quality and supple skin types, Mr Kaveney said.

Especially pleasing, he said, was the increasing proportion of polled sheep with impressive growth and wool, something achieved while staying within type.

"It's taken a while to get there but by staying within the fine medium tablelands type and not using diverse outcrosses as many studs have, a very consistent high-quality poll merino with great breeding repeatability has been established," Mr Kaveney said.

An example was Tallawong Merinos semen sire 150280 (PP), most recently ranked third on Fibre Production Plus FP+, sixth on Merino Production Plus MP+, 35th on Dual Purpose Plus DP+ and 20th on Wool Production Plus WP+ of sires in Australia.

Mr Kaveney said his progeny were impressive types overall, with high staple strength and low dust penetration thanks to dense, well-nourished wools.

A large contingent of sons will appear in this year's October 13 sale.

About 800 to 900 of the 1400 stud ewes are artificially inseminated to a combination of outside sires of a similar type, and to proven home-bred and promising young sires.

The breeding strategy helped benchmark Tallawong's progress while bringing new genetics into the stud.

Naturally-mated stud ewes often received promising young homebred sires, maintaining a high rate of genetic improvement.

Classed-out commercial ewes are retained and joined to poll dorsets, whose lambs were sold as restockers but had also been successfully sold at export weights.

The large commercial and stud flocks totalling 11,000 breeding ewes allowed Tallawong to benchmark performance.

"The commercial ewes joined back to Merinos are a great progeny testing base, where promising siblings of a sire can be mated to a suitable-sized mob," Mr Kaveney said.

"This gives good insight to the reliability and potency of any individual sire."

Traits had to be balanced.

"The ideal balance of wool, structure, carcase and fertility will not only vary between regions and farms with differing pasture, climate and soils, but the enterprise focus may vary with perhaps a couple of enterprise types showing similar profitability over time within a region," Mr Kaveney said.

"Taking these mixed enterprise variations into account, I'm still concerned that, in more recent years, the drive for greater growth and frame may be out balanced with overall improved profitability per hectare, as fleece weights have taken a secondary role, particularly on a per hectare basis as body weights have risen.

He said the average breeding merino ewe was shorn six times and some people put too much emphasis on size alone.

"Size is important to survival in most western grazing leases but moderation is required elsewhere," Mr Kaveney said.

"It's not the size of an animal that determines the size of your bank balance."

Mr Kaveney said selection for yearling growth was unfortunately highly correlated with increasing mature adult weights.

"It's achievable to some extent but requires the ongoing selection of 'curve bender' type sheep showing good early growth but only modest mature adult weight," he said.

Although adult body weight data collection was paramount in achieving reliable Australian Sheep Breeding Values, he said reliable data was often inadequate at the time of selecting yearling rams for mating.

Excessive ewe weight was becoming a problem, Mr Kaveney said.

"It's less efficient in terms of production per hectare and will exacerbate a looming backlash from occupational health and safety authorities with limits on dragging, lifting sheep; something we will all be penalized by," he said.

"The bloke that significantly under stocks and pampers his maiden ewes will win many ewe competitions at the expense of the chap who runs a more viable farm with higher stocking rates, has similar ewes genetically and exhibits a lot more management skill making it all work."

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