HAVING Merinos in the mix spreads market risk for Greenethorpe mixed farmers Rob and Mandy Taylor, adding wool and meat enterprises to the business.
Merinos complement the family's main focus, cropping, and they also run a commercial hay enterprise.
The Taylors, who trade as Hazeldene Pastoral Company (Grenfell), join 3500 Merino ewes at Glenalla, Greenethorpe, producing 19.7-micron wool and finishing the wether lamb portion.
Mr Taylor is the second generation using genetics from Paraway's Pooginook stud which is managed by John Sutherland.
"Being longtime clients of around 40 years, we've seen all the developments down there over time," he said.
"We're after an easy care, highly fertile sheep that does well in a high rainfall environment. We look for early maturity so we can turn off lambs at an early stage as well as the good lustrous wool that Pooginook is known for.
"The stud has made a big investment in DNA genomics, data collection and technology in recent years.
"We use ASBVs (Australian Sheep Breeding Values) and RamSelect to help with our sire selection and to ensure that we are on track with our breeding objective."
I look for post weaning weight above 5.5, a clean fleece weight of above 16.5, and positive fat and eye muscle, but still with the bright, lustrous, elite type wool with good crimp and fibre alignment.
Having figures available has finetuned our whole selection and tightened up the genetics of the ram team to fast track our genetic gain.
Breeding dual-purpose sheep means he's looking for a good balance of wool and meat traits when selecting rams,
"I look for post weaning weight above 5.5, a clean fleece weight of above 16.5, and positive for fat and eye muscle, but still with the bright, lustrous, elite type wool with good crimp and fibre alignment.
"Having the figures available has finetuned our whole selection and tightened up the genetics of the ram team to fast track our genetic gain."
Mr Taylor made the switch to all polled sires about 10 years ago.
"When we made that transition, for a better carcase, quicker maturity and plainer bodies, I thought we'd struggle to maintain that elite type of wool," he said.
"However, that hasn't been an issue. We've maintained our fibre diameter and wool style, whilst making big gains with carcase and maturity.
"This year our adult sheep cut 9.1 kilograms at 12-month shearing.
"That was our best average wool cut on the back of a drought.
"Yields were down 10 per cent, so there would have been more dust in the clip which could have bumped up the weight.
"We usually average 8.5kg greasy fleece weight and an average of 19.7-micron in the adult sheep."
The Taylors have also had a good year with conception rates, after joining in March in confinement pens, while feeding ewes barley and canola silage.
"We scanned 147pc potential to ewes joined, including maidens, and I think the greater ram to ewe contact whilst in the drought lot has really helped," Mr Taylor said.
"Normally we average around 110pc to 120pc lambs marked to ewes joined, so this has been the best scanning for us."
With the focus on cropping, the Taylors make the most of the available space, growing wheat, canola , barley and pulse crops.
Pastures include clovers, lucerne, chicory, perennial grasses.
"About 20pc of our cropping rotation area is for grazing crops - winter wheat and canola - which is predominantly used for weaners and finishing wether lambs," Mr Taylor said.
"We normally have them to 30kg carcase weight by 10.5 to 11 months, finished on grazing crops and with supplementary grain in feeders.
"They usually go over the hook to Tamworth, Southern Meats (at Goulburn) or Victoria.
"Lamb and mutton prices have never been stronger which is changing the equation, so sale sheep and lambs are contributing more than the wool side of things."
Merinos add diversity to the enterprise mix on the farm, which helps spreads the risk profile for Mr Taylor.
"This year, with the surplus of feed we're retaining a few wethers because of the feed availability, and because the lamb job has slipped a little bit," he said.
"We normally don't keep wethers, and if we need to quit them later, we can."