Coggans seek to master meat sheep

Westmar farmers turn to meat sheep


Sheep
Diversification: Phillip Coggan said meat sheep had become an important part of their busy mixed farming business. He's now desigining a new, undercover sheep feedlot.

Diversification: Phillip Coggan said meat sheep had become an important part of their busy mixed farming business. He's now desigining a new, undercover sheep feedlot.

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They are well known for their Guinness World record wheat plant but Westmar's Coggan family have recently turned to prime lambs to further diversify their mixed farming business.

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It started as a young boy’s project but the Coggan family say their meat sheep operation is now a key part of their mixed farming business.

Five years ago, Thomas Coggan was getting restless in his Distance Education school room on Enarra, Westmar. 

Desperate to be out in the paddock, 11-year-old Thomas did a deal with his father. Get the school work done early and he’d get a crack at driving a header at harvest. 

“He ended up doing it and earned a bit of money and we decided to buy some ewes,” his father, Phillip Coggan said. 

With the help of his father and mother Cindy, Thomas purchased 40 White Dorper ewes which became the foundation for today’s flock at Enarra.

Thomas is now in Year 11 and the flock has grown to about 3000 commercial ewes and 500 stud Meatmasters.

Meatmasters is a composite breed of White Dorper, Van Rooy, Wiltshire Horn and Damara that was developed in South Africa in the 1990s.

The Coggans introduced Meatmasters on the advice of their sheep consultant, Lloyd Dunlop, and have purchased the bulk of their genetics from Denis Russell in South Australia.

Mr Coggan said he had been impressed with the mothering and twinning ability of the Meatmasters as well as their weight gains and feet.

“We are selling Red and White Meatmaster rams from our stud but we mainly developed it to have rams for ourselves,” he said.

It has been more than 70 years since the heyday of sheep on Enarra, a property that has been in the Coggan family for four generations. 

In the 1950s, the Coggans shore over 25,000 head of Merinos but when they sold the last of them in the wool crash, Mr Coggan swore he’d never go back to sheep.

“We went through all the shooting of the ewes and I swore I’d never have them here again,” he said.

Today, the Coggans are busy planning a new feed shed for their expanding meat sheep operation. 

Alongside their 3000 head beef feedlot, the Coggans have been feedlotting lambs for the export market.

They use simple, open bunkers to feed out a ration that includes 20 per cent roughage with barley and or wheat, along with a Riverina supplement.

“We basically treat them the same as we treat the cattle in the feedlot,” Mr Coggan said. 

“We’ve had great success. Good weight gains – they are in and out in forty days.

“We are planning to build a feed shed for the sheep. It will have a four meter lane down the middle with three meter pens on either side so they can all feed undercover.”

The lambs generally go into the feedlot between 35 and 38kg and are currently being marketed to Thomas Foods at Tamworth.  

The Coggans use their own B Double to truck the fat lambs to Tamworth and can fit about 360 lambs on the cattle decks.

The commercial and stud ewe flocks are rotated around an area that has been specially fenced for the sheep operation.

The ewes are joined twice a year, with the rams going in about March and September. 

Enarra ewes and lambs.

Enarra ewes and lambs.

They are supplemented with grain in the paddock using Advantage Feeders all year round and are run with Maremma dogs to guard against predators.

“We haven’t had any trouble with wild dogs here yet but you only have to go thirty mile either way and they are having a lot of trouble so we think the Maremmas are a good idea,” Mr Coggan said. 

Mr Coggan says he doesn’t see too many challenges with the sheep, aside from worms.

“They aren’t difficult to manage but are just another job to do,” he said.

“We see a lot of potential with the sheep operation. Prices are very strong and the Meatmasters are easy care animals.”

The story Coggans seek to master meat sheep first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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