Farm Online

Tattykeel makes switch to shedding sheep easy

COMMERCIAL SUCCESS: Some of Tattykeel's nine-month-old Australian White stud sires which continue to attract interest from wool, cattle and prime lamb producers keen to make a change to the easy-care meat sheep breed.

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Developed more than 10 years ago by the renowned Tattykeel stud, demand for Australian White genetics continues to rise as producers across Australia turn to the high-performing meat sheep breed to lift farm profits.

Based at Oberon on the NSW Central Tablelands, Tattykeel stud principal Graham Gilmore said the success of the new breed is being driven by its commercially desirable traits including high fertility, growth and ease of care.

"On a dollar return per hectare basis, I don't believe there is any other sheep breed that can stack up to it and that's why the breed has been so successful," Mr Gilmore said.

"Australian Whites are attracting interest from a range of producers. I've got three generational cattle people that have quadrupled their income off the same farm by going to Aussie Whites.

"I've also got Merino wool growers who have transitioned to an Aussie White flock and have more than doubled their returns, as well as producers with first-cross ewes."

But Mr Gilmore said the most significant growth in the breed had come from prime lamb producers running composite ewe flocks.

"Transitioning from a composite sheep to an Australian White is only two to three generations and the majority of sheep are clean shedders because of the way it is bred," he said.

"At realistic prices of $400 for surplus ewes it is still more than double what I can make from composite and first-cross ewes.

"We can run more ewes due to their better conversion rates as they're producing meat all the time instead of wool and you are getting more lambs with three joinings in a two-year period and spreading your income across the year.

"The input and labour costs are also significantly less because there is no shearing, crutching or chasing flies."

THRIVING: Some of Tattykeel's commercial Australian White ewes running on native pastures at Oberon, NSW.

The Gilmore family, including Mr Gilmore and his wife Kirsty, their sons James and Ross, and their wives Melinda and Samantha, currently run 2000 Australian White stud ewes alongside a commercial flock of 4000 ewes.

Demand for Tattykeel's purebred genetics continues to break records, with the stud's most recent two sales, held within six months of each other, grossing nearly eight million dollars for 574 Australian White sheep.

"In a very short space of time the breed has grown dramatically, which is market driven. Commercial producers are turning to Australian Whites because it is a quality, branded product and all the hard work has been done," he said.

"We've been old school in the way we've deliberately line-bred them to maintain breed stability and breed type.

"Using line-breeding principles is why the breed is so dominant when it is crossed with other sheep breeds.

"The breed type includes a dark nose, full-hair coat, black feet, deep bodies, good spring of rib and a good carcase shape with out of season breeding."

Mr Gilmore said parameters had been introduced for size with a live weight of 80 to 95 kilograms targeted for mature ewes and 110 to 120kg for rams. Good leg structure and conformation is also important.

"Their hair pattern is one of the traits that make them able to be used in a diverse range of environments," he said.

"The colder it is, the thicker the coat and the warmer it is the less thick."

ADAPTABLE: Tattykeel's 10-month-old maiden ewes displaying the natural full-haired coat type that the Australian White breed is renowned for.

Mr Gilmore said the breed had also been designed to finish on grass with commercial Australian White flocks achieving growth rates comparable to a second-cross lamb sired by a Poll Dorset ram.

"Our commercial wether lamb portion is averaging 24 to 26kg dressed weight at four to five months of age," Mr Gilmore said.

"You won't see many pens of Australian White lambs offered on AuctionsPlus as feeder lambs because they have already been finished."

The Gilmores have continued to refine the breed, with independent research carried out by University of Tasmania's associate professor Abuli Malau-Aduli, demonstrating the unique eating qualities of Tattykeel Australian White-cross lambs.

"The research showed that the Australian White-cross lambs had a significantly lower melting point of the intramuscular fat (IMF) which results in a cleaner taste and improved tenderness," Mr Gilmore said.

"It wasn't a trait that we had selected for in the initial development of the breed, but we are very excited about these results and have started testing our stud animals to assist in the accurate selection for this attribute."

The innovative team at Tattykeel have also introduced a certified quality assurance program to assist their clients to market their commercial ewes as premium Australian Whites.

"The Tattykeel red tags are reserved for progeny from purebred Australian White ewes joined with Tattykeel rams," Mr Gilmore said.

"But not every sheep sired by Tattykeel rams is red tagged, it is only the best of the best.

"So many people have been caught buying inferior Australian Whites, the red tag identification means producers can buy with confidence."

Tattykeel's ninth annual Australian White stud sale will be held on Wednesday, September 28.

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