Breeding Merino ewes has always been the main game for Will and Marcelle Chandler and nothing that's happened in the last 15 or 20 years has dissuaded them from that focus.
The spectacular sight of 6500 weaners being mustered for classing and shearing at their Isisford property almost a fortnight ago would give heart to anyone who has stuck with wool-growing through years of low prices, the encroachment of wild dogs, and drought feeding.
It was some reward for the Chandlers who say they have so far spent $3.6 million on exclusion fencing for Oma and Linamar at Isisford plus Home Creek at Barcaldine, which includes internal fencing to split the properties into 12,000 to 16,000ha sections.
They've shot or trapped 20 wild dogs at Home Creek in the last three months, with four broaching the boundary, but Mr Chandler said the fencing was worth every cent to stop the waves of five or six dogs at a time crashing down on them.
The property's bank balance is also suffering the effects of feeding stock on and off for the last 11 years but the fortune spent on feed is paying off now that they have 11,000 joined ewes that will lamb later this year.
The Chandlers hope that will give them 5500 young ewes to class.
With nearly 3000 maiden ewes to be joined at the end of 2020, they hope to then be back on track with some 7000 young ewes in all, meaning they can look forward to the preferred routine of selling cast-for-age ewes at five years of age rather than keeping them for up to three more years.
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As the Chandlers know all too well, it's a juggling act that has to be rebalanced all the time.
With virtually no rain at Home Creek to give any relief, but enough falling on the Isisford country to keep herbage going, they are running only 2900 at Barcaldine and have the majority of the flock, 18,000 head stockpiled at Isisford.
As insurance and diversification, they plan to put Kalahari Red sires over a feral goat flock that will also be behind wire.
Wool worth its weight
The weight of his fleeces is what Will Chandler is prioritising in his and wife Marcelle Chandler's wool-growing enterprise centred on their home base at Home Creek, Barcaldine, and Oma and Linamar, situated south of Isisford on the Barcoo River.
While their clip has averaged 19.5 to 20 microns for most of the years they have been in business and has brought them a lot of flock ewe competition wins at shows throughout the central west, cutting a lot of wool is Mr Chandler's aim for now.
"Micron doesn't matter at the minute, the way the price of wool has gone down," he said.
They usually expect 600 bales a year between the three places, and were on track to repeat that this year according to their long-term classer Jackie Garden, who said the cull weaners were cutting a surprising amount with just seven months' growth.
They were averaging 2.5kg per fleece and the adult fleeces were expected to be 6.5kg or more, based on past experience.
Mr Chandler said his lambs were a month younger than usual at shearing time because rams hadn't been put in until last year's March rain that eventuated from Cyclone Trevor.
Ms Garden has been classing the Chandler clip since 2000.
"They're good wool people and it seems to grow a lot of wool down here, when they're lucky to get a good season," she said.
Mr Chandler said it had been really good to work with a consistent classer that he could always talk about his wool with.
"There's a bit of a difference between looking at it on the sheep's back and in the shed," he said. "I want to get down to one bin but I haven't been able to do that. It's a very even line then, everything's spot on."
Ms Garden said that when a grower classed their sheep it made a difference to the lines in the shed, but a single line of wool was not likely to happen, given the AWEX code of conduct around describing wool.
Before shearing this year Mr Chandler, his manager Brad Edwards and staff spent a weekend separating and classing 6500 weaners.
After shearing, the wether portion was loaded off the board for Bimerah at Stonehenge, which has purchased Oma wethers in the past and returned for more.
Cull ewes have been trucked to Nyngan in NSW as Mr Chandler said they were too light and needed more condition on them.
AI and scanning
Scanning and AI are all tools the Chandlers have used to try and continually improve production, although they've not had as much success lately with AI reproduction percentages.
Mr Chandler said it was something many were commenting on but had no answers for.
They are long-term Egelabra clients but have recently introduced seven Terrick Merino rams to put over their AI ewes instead.
The first lambs are on the ground but it's too early to tell yet whether the hybrid cross ideas have come to fruition.
Mr Chandler said he had chosen Terrick Merinos because, as well as having no Egelabra genetics in them, he believed they performed as well as numerous other options further from home.
Joining is staggered between the Barcaldine and Isisford operations to spread the workload out evenly through the year, and to increase productivity options.
November is D Day at Home Creek, while March is when it happens at Oma.
"We get two goes at it then," Mr Chandler said.
"And then because we shear at Oma in June, we lamb in August, whereas I lamb in April-May at Home Creek.
"We can also double join because we scan the ewes.
"Anything that's scanned empty will get one more go and if it's not in, then it's out."
To keep it interesting, they are planning to manage existing feral goat populations on both properties by introducing Kalahari Red and Boer sires, and to set up yards to handle bigger mobs.