As a farmer and grazier, your best resource is your landholding and it needs to be used to maximum potential to ensure a long-term sustainable and profitable business.
That is the philosophy of Merino and crossbred lamb producer Greg Woodlock, who farms in the medium-rainfall zone along the Marra Creek in north west New South Wales.
He has been farming in the district for more than 20 years and typically runs a 3500-head ewe flock on native saltbush across his 6670-hectare property.
Prolonged and severe drought in 2018 and 2019 forced him to reduce sheep numbers and he avoided joining young ewes.
By the time the drought broke his flock numbers had been decimated by 75 per cent.
But good seasons in 2020 and 2021 has enabled him to buy in some ewe replacements from southern districts and begin to rebuild his numbers.
Mr Woodlock was able to join 2500 head of Merinos for wool and prime lambs this year, and is planning, if seasons permit, to get back to optimum stocking levels of 3500 head in the coming few years.
Traditionally running Merinos for wool production and wether sales, Mr Woodlock now also joins a portion of his ewes to White Suffolk sires for prime lambs and also opportunistically trades cattle.
This has diversified his cash flow throughout the year between livestock, Merino fleece and crossbred wool sales, and has helped to mitigate business risks.
This year, a very mild and wet summer created ideal conditions to join ewes about six weeks earlier than usual and have lambs on the ground in July, instead of September-October.
"This means I can sell lambs into the spring market earlier - as four to five-month-old suckers - and hopefully capture some higher prices, or at least similar prices to what I would get if I held them for an extra month or two," Mr Woodlock said.
"I will turn them off at about 45 kilograms and they will mainly go to finishers and feedlots in the southern regions.
"Strong buyer demand from restockers, finishers and processors has seen lamb prices skyrocket this year, which is very positive.
"The grid is about $8.50/kg and I sold some early lambs for more than $165/head in July this year."
Mr Woodlock said another advantage of getting lambs off their mums and sold earlier, was that it gave the ewes a longer recovery time to build up condition before their next joining in 2022.
"In an ideal world, this will optimise conception rates, potentially increase the number of multiples and set up lambs for good early growth and wool production," he said.
"Paddock feed will also have a longer spell, which will boost productivity on the ground.
"It's all about juggling what I can to maximise production and income from the land area that I have."
Mr Woodlock said it was also vital to invest in genetics to progress sheep performance.
He uses rams from Allendale stud, based nearby at Wellington, because progeny were quick to put on growth on saltbush and native grass pastures and produced a quality, white medium wool.
"They get away really well and are robust," he said.
"The ewes are also fertile, with conception rates averaging about 100 per cent over the long-term.";
Mr Woodlock aims for ewes that grow 20-21 micron wool and produce a fleece of about six kilograms per head.
Young ewes and wethers grow about 3kg/head of finer, 17-18-micron wool, by their first shearing.
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