Genetics help boost wool cut, fertility in flock at Glencoe

Genetics help boost wool cut, fertility in Merino flock at Glencoe

Sheep
IMPROVING FLOCK: Koonwarra genetics are helping Tom Simson breed a moderate, plainer-bodied sheep, with improved fertility and wool cut.

IMPROVING FLOCK: Koonwarra genetics are helping Tom Simson breed a moderate, plainer-bodied sheep, with improved fertility and wool cut.

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Fine-tuning ram selection and improving fertility is Tom Simson's focus as he increases flock numbers.

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FINE-TUNING ram selection and improving fertility is Tom Simson's focus as he increases flock numbers at Glencoe, near Reids Flat.

Mr Simson currently manages a 5500-head flock for owner Paul Simons, and after downsizing from 10,000 head during drought, he's rebuilding with a higher percentage of Merino lambs this year.

Mr Simson also helps run Mr Simons' superfine flock, based on Merrignee bloodlines, at Yass.

"We usually join 50 per cent of our young sheep to Merinos and the others to Poll Dorsets for store lambs, but because we're in the flock rebuild stage we've joined 3000 to Merinos and 1200 to Poll Dorsets," he said.

"We'll rebuild Merino numbers from this year, and we should get pretty close to our normal numbers with this year's lambing."

The current season will also allow Mr Simson to retain the wethers.

"We usually keep two age groups of wethers, about 2000, on the farm, but they go straight away in the drought."

The Glencoe flock has been based on Koonwarra genetics from Jono Merriman since the property was purchased about five years ago.

A Glencoe ewe.

A Glencoe ewe.

"We're trying to breed plain-bodied sheep, with not so much wrinkle around the breeches," he said.

"When we bought the place, we bought the sheep off the previous owner, but now there's only one age group of their sheep left.

"We were culling about 30pc to 35pc each year and now that's in the low twenties, as the sheep have improved."

Using Koonwarra genetics has resulted in a moderate, plain-bodied flock, and helped Mr Simson increase wool cut by 1.5 kilograms in the adult sheep.

"The previous owners were running 12,000 sheep and 200 cows when we bought the place, and we're running at a lower stocking rate, but getting more wool, and more lambs.

"We definitely saw the benefits of a lower stocking rate during the drought.

"We were able to keep ground cover so the place recovered quite quickly."

Mr Simson has also been working on increasing fertility in the flock.

"We had a lot of dry sheep in the first couple of scannings, marking about 80pc, and now it's up to 117pc to 120pc," he said.

We definitely saw the benefits of a lower stocking rate during the drought. We were able to keep ground cover so the place recovered quite quickly. - Woolgrower Tom Simson, Glencoe, Reids Flat

"It was a steep improvement in quality at the start and now we're fine-tuning nutrition and ram selection, and we're being harder on the dry ewes."

Mr Simson's goal is to cut 7.5 kilograms per head, at 19 to 19.5-micron.

"We've had a couple of contracts with garment makers in Europe who like a specific micron - 19 to 20, and our sheep are already doing that so we're looking to maintain micron," he said.

"The buyer sought us out. They were looking for wool for their clients, so they went through Australian wool sale sheets and found the wool they liked the look of through testing and contacted us.

"It's been extremely beneficial with the current drop in the wool market. About a third of our wool is locked into that.

"Now we're focused on maintaining that business relationship, making sure the sheep going into that contract have a consistent diet and they're consistent with their wool."

The pasture mix includes native grasses and clovers, along with winter crops, to give lambing paddocks a rest.

FINE-TUNING SELECTION: Mr Simson has also been working on increasing fertility in the flock, lifting scanning from 80 per cent to 120pc.

FINE-TUNING SELECTION: Mr Simson has also been working on increasing fertility in the flock, lifting scanning from 80 per cent to 120pc.

Mr Simson is improving scanning percentages by increasing nutrition leading up to joining.

"We're trying a few different loose licks to give them every possible chance to get pregnant," he said.

"We'll start getting tough on them now that we can get our numbers up and any empties might go to the crossbred flock."

Producing crossbred lambs spreads market risk and it's a low maintenance enterprise to run.

"We're finding that Koonwarra-blood ewes that we've bred are breeding crossbred lambs well, and we're getting a lot of twinners and better lambing percentages.

"The fertility is coming through from Jono's rams."

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