Animal health, biosecurity, and disease management are all at the top of most producers' priorities and one Gilgandra-based Border Leicester stud is putting accreditation to it.
Already being a Brucellosis accredited herd with aims to be at the highest level of Johne's Disease accreditation (MM3) by the end of the year, the on-farm activities for Cherie Pagan, Cooinda Border Leicester's were crucial to maintaining this.
"The most important thing for us is where we purchase stock from," Mrs Pagan said. "We only bring in stock from the same of higher status.
"We might find a stud ram we like, but he is from a stud that might not have status so that you can use him as an AI sire, but you might not be able to purchase him and bring him home.
"The biggest restriction is where we source stock from, and that is why we run the commercials separate because it would be a nightmare trying to source commercial stock with that status.
"When purchasing stud animals, that is the first thing we have to ask, what accreditation do these stock have.
Although a lot of natural service is used for joining, Mrs Pagan said she used an Artificial Insemination (AI) program to access genetics she could not get physical animals for, mainly due to biosecurity.
Mrs Pagan said both the Brucellosis and Johne's Disease accreditations have a series of tests before the accreditation is achieved, and then to maintain accreditation. Brucellosis requires blood testing and Mrs Pagan said it builds up over the years, "the first year you have to do it every 12 months, and then it goes to every two years, and then every three years."
On the other hand, the Johne's Disease is a fecal test and Mrs Pagan said she was about to do another round of testing which would take them to the top level of accreditation.
"It is a long process that has to be done over a number of years, so I am glad to be getting to the end of it," she said.
"It sets you up really well, and it sets up your biosecurity really well, so I think I would encourage people to source their stock from the studs that do the work and take the time to do the disease testing."
Flock numbers at Cooinda were still rebuilding after the drought, but Mrs Pagan said she had between 250 and 300 stud ewes with aims of reaching 400. Mrs Pagan said the Border Leicesters run on their home block, which was a few hundred acres with about 100 commercial Merino ewes on other properties to maintain biosecurity.
Within the small commercial Merino ewe flock, first-cross lambs are the output. All being sired by Cooinda rams, Mrs Pagan said it had been useful to use their own genetics and see how they are performing.
"We can see what the progeny look like, and hopefully over time, we will see the benefits of the decisions I am making for our clients. I think it is very useful for stud producers to be using their own genetics like their clients would be," she said.
Within the first-cross lambs, the Wethers were usually put through the sale yards, and the ewes were grown out, marketed, and sold through AuctionsPlus.
Mrs Pagan said their clients are a big drive for change in the flock. "Moving stud stock from 1200kms south to up here, we have changed our focus to be in line with what everyone up here is doing," she said.
"We have had a really good response in the decisions we have made with what rams we have used, purely based on what our clients are chasing for their flocks," she said.
She had also been heavily using LambPlan objective measurements and making good data files for the sheep, with the main traits being focused on fat, growth, and fertility.
"They are the traits we found we had to focus on more since moving up here (Gilgandra)", Mrs Pagan said. All lambs were caught and weighed at birth, given an EID tag, mothered up, and then the ewes were given scores for maternal behaviour.
"Anything and everything you can record on these animals is recorded, and all the information is put into the computer and sent off to sheep genetics," Mrs Pagan said.
"It is useful for us and useful for our clients, and I think it will just be an expectation for stud stock producers to have that information.
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