AFTER more than a century on its present course, a major Walgett Merino stud operation has decided to change course and trade in its beloved Merinos for a new direction.
It's a decision that took much consideration, but an inconsistent wool market and planning for the future are just some of the reasons Gingie stud will shift its focus to Dorpers.
"I think the stud was started in 1898 and the property has been in our family since 1916, so it has been a long history with Merino rams," Gingie Pastoral Company principal Charlie Pye said.
"I looked at Dorpers about 10 years ago, but quickly worked out you wouldn't go down that path without a good dog fence, so we got a dog fence up just before my son came home in 2011."
However, the move was about more than just markets and factors beyond the farm gate.
Daily operations and enjoyment of the job also weighed on the outcome, with Mr Pye acknowledging his son also "doesn't have too much patience for the challenges that come along with Merinos".
The decision was therefore made to sell all of their flock ewes earlier this month on AuctionsPlus, paving the way for the new plan and an investment in some quality foundation Dorper genetics.
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The Pyes dived into the meat-sheep industry earlier this month at the Amarula Dorpers stud sale, purchasing 11 rams and ewes, including the $9000 top-price ewe, for a draft average of $4740.
"I think we were always going to change something and I want to be able to pass the operation on to my son, but there's not much point me carrying on with Merinos if he's not interested," Mr Pye said.
"Personally, I think it is a good move for a variety of reasons, firstly being how volatile the wool market can be with China buying 80 per cent of our wool, another being the issue of mulesing, which isn't going to just go away, and as well as that, these animals are pretty well suited to our country.
"How we've always bought our stock is we don't worry about what we pay for genetics, we just see the animal and buy it because I think genetics is cheap if you want to be on top of whatever stock you're into."
Mr Pye said he was confident other producers would be considering a move into meat-breed sheep in the coming months.
"We cleared 30,000 acres (12,141 hectares) for cropping, have feedlots set up, good grain storage and to be honest, Merinos didn't really fit into that setup," he said.
"Merinos are a lot of work, 80pc of the work is into the wool itself, not so much the meat and the hours you pour into that is the real killer.
"I'm sure there is plenty out there who have already made the change and lots who are thinking about it, but I think the big thing that might stop them is the cost of putting up a dog fence.
"The wool market would have to double or triple for people to stop making the change and going back the other way, but I don't see that happening."
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