POLL Dorset genetics are producing quick-growing lambs for the Kingham family at Millthorpe.
Mark and Emma Kingham, with Mark's parents Bruce and Jan, run 1700-first cross ewes alongside a 130-head herd of Angus cows, over two properties, Westbrook and St Martins.
The Kinghams have used terminal sires from Ridgehaven Poll Dorset stud for the past few years, and they're looking for good length and shape in their rams, as well as growth and eye muscle.
"Growth is a big thing for us," Mr Kingham said.
"We aim to turn two-thirds of our lambs off as suckers, anywhere from 14 weeks on, and the rest we'll shear and take through to over 30 kilograms (carcase weight).
"The suckers sell in the higher end of the sucker market, 24kg or heavier, and it's been a great market for them over the past few years."
All first-cross ewes (generally Border Leicester/Merino) are bought in so that they can focus on the second-cross prime lamb production.
"There are plenty of breeders with good, big framed Merinos to produce first-cross ewes, and we prefer that bigger frame, a more western style of sheep."
Second-cross lambs are sold mostly through the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange at Carcoar, with many of them selling from September to December.
"It's a good market at CTLX, and on average, we do better at the saleyards because if you have nice fresh lambs, you're going to do well. We do have repeat buyers looking for our lambs all the time, particularly in the heavier end, in the later lambs we sell.
"They're on early oats then we'll sell them at the heavier weight, over 30kg.
"Some of the prices now for the heavy lambs look good, but they've eaten a lot of feed to get them there, you've shorn them, drenched them more, and put more work into them - it's definitely better to sell more suckers."
While growth is the Poll Dorset breed's best attribute, lambing percentages and lamb survival are also big benefits.
It's a good market at CTLX, and on average, we do better at the saleyards because if you have nice fresh lambs, you're going to do well.- Mark Kingham, St Martins, Millthorpe
Lambing is at the end of autumn and early winter.
"They're easy to lamb and they're good strong lambs when they're newborns - they can handle a bit of cold weather in the first couple of days," Mr Kingham said.
"We do scan the ewes to split them into multiples and singles and manage feed accordingly, so we don't end up having to pull many lambs."
Pastures include cocksfoot and ryegrass, with good sub clover. The Kinghams also grow grazing crops, particularly oats, which covers the feed gap in winter when pasture growth slows.
The family recently purchased adjoining country in December, so they've added to the flock with 900 maiden ewes to make the most of the extra land.
"Because first-cross ewes ready to join are so dear, we bought younger than what we typically would and grew them out in the good spring and joined them for an August/September lambing."
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