Staple length in focus with a shift to six-month shearing

Staple length in focus with a shift to six-month shearing at Bimbadeen

Sheep
LIFTING WOOL CUT: The Kensits have been Boxleigh Park clients for about 10 years and select rams based on ASBVs for eye muscle, fat, staple length and clean fleece weight.

LIFTING WOOL CUT: The Kensits have been Boxleigh Park clients for about 10 years and select rams based on ASBVs for eye muscle, fat, staple length and clean fleece weight.

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The Kensit family has increased wool cut and staple length, while improving lamb survival.

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THE Kensit family has increased wool cut and staple length, while improving lamb survival, by selecting rams based on a balance of wool and carcase traits.

Fourth-generation woolgrower Tim Kensit and his wife Leisa, run between 2000 and 2500 ewes at Bimbadeen, Narrawa, between Crookwell and Boorowa, depending on the season.

They're currently running about 2100, with Mr Kensit preferring to give his paddocks a rest before he rebuilds the flock.

The Kensits have been Boxleigh Park clients for about 10 years.

"With the help of our two sheep classers Pat McNeil and Dennis Hewitt, we've always selected our rams visually and then after that ASBVs, focusing on eye muscle, fat, staple length and clean fleece weight," Mr Kensit said.

"All our adult sheep under three years are shorn every six months, and currently they're averaging 65 millimetres in length, which is increasing due to using ASBVs.

"We estimate that within four years all adult sheep will be shorn every six months with an average length of 70mm."

Mr Kensit's focus is on producing early maturing, plain-bodied sheep, which don't require mulesing or jetting.

All our adult sheep under three years are shorn every six months, and currently they're averaging 65 millimetres in length, which is increasing due to using ASBVs. We estimate that within four years all adult sheep will be shorn every six months with an average length of 70mm. - Woolgrower Tim Kensit, Bimbadeen, Narrawa

He has been receiving premiums for his wool, but producing plain-bodied sheep also means less work.

"Once I started getting interested in SRS genetics the premium was one of the big bonuses in going that way.

"We haven't mulesed for 20 years, and we don't need to jet."

Sheep are shorn in May and November, with the adults cutting approximately three kilograms a head, at 18 to 19-micron.

Wool is currently auctioned, but improving staple length will allow Mr Kensit to meet other markets.

"If we can get to the 70mm with each cut then maybe we can look at other options, selling direct to mills," he said.

"With every shearing so far the wool strength test has been well into the fifties and yield has also improved.

"We're really excited with how it's going and very happy with the genetic progress we're making."

A ewe with twin lambs.

A ewe with twin lambs.

The Kensits have also been working on improving carcase traits, recognising their importance in lamb survival and a ewe's ability to handle drought and cold weather.

"As a result we average above 100 per cent lambing every year and we find the sheep can hold on better tough in seasons due to selection on fat and eye muscle.

"Two years ago we did a DNA test on the flock and we were in the top 20pc of the flocks that were tested for staple length, top 25pc for eye muscle, and top 30pc for genetic fat.

"Selecting on carcase traits also helps when we're selling wether lambs."

In good seasons they keep wethers, but they offloaded all wethers during drought when the market was high, and they won't retain any until the season improves.

"We have a drought policy, that if we have below average rain in the spring, all wether lambs have to be sold," Mr Kensit said.

"Our last wethers went on AuctionsPlus and got phenomenal money. At six months they averaged $165.

"Focusing on carcase traits gives us more flexibility with markets depending on the season."

The ewes are run in two main large mobs and rotationally grazed, with the first grade ewes joined to Boxleigh Park rams and the classed out ewes joined to Poll Dorsets.

PRODUCTIVE SHEEP: Sheep are shorn in May and November, with the adults cutting about three kilograms a head, at 18 to 19-micron.

PRODUCTIVE SHEEP: Sheep are shorn in May and November, with the adults cutting about three kilograms a head, at 18 to 19-micron.

All ewes start lambing in July and the crossbred lambs are sold as stores in early November.

"In late November when we shear or crutch, the Merino lambs are cross weaned from their mothers across to the second grade ewes, where they usually stay for the next six months.

"In extremely dry times we would consider running these two mobs as one, which would increase the length of rest each paddock would receive as the mob rotate through the paddocks."

Pastures include native grasses with sub-clovers, and Mr Kensit has been growing multi-species crops for the past three years to improve soil health and finish lambs.

"I'm putting more weight on them, to value add.

"The rest periods aren't long enough at the moment, so we're working on infrastructure to increase the number of paddocks, and therefore increase the number of rest days in each paddock."

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