Welcome to our 2015 newsletter and what a contrast this season is shaping up to be after last year’s fantastic spring/summer. After a non-existant winter we basically had no spring, with frosts continuing well into December sucking the juice out of the ground and very little rain to replenish soil moisture. It has been the poorest season for lucerne growth so balage reserves for next winter are half of what we normally require. However merinos love the heat and dry and although we haven’t weaned yet the lambs are doing well and feet issues seem very minor. The dry might just give us the opportunity to clean the feet up once and for all!
Scanning went well again with 55% of in-lamb M/A ewes having twins and an overall rate 140% including 2-2ths. The dry rate was higher than usual – caused by not enough rams out and cutting back to a strict 2 cycles only. We have been mating at 1 ram per 100 ewes so next year we will up it to 1 – 80. We tailed 122% through the yards so a 12.8% loss was not too bad considering we had 3 small “snow episodes” during lambing.
The stud lambs look really good especially the drop by ‘Desmond’ (our expensive Aussie import who was the 2014 Australian Dual-purpose ram of the year at Bendigo Sheep Show). At this early stage his lambs are the best boned, most even group we have bred so far, so we’re expecting big things from them. He is apparently breeding very well in Australia as well, with about $100,000.00 worth of semen sales from him. In total we’ve tagged over 500 lambs so have plenty coming on for the future.
Last year I talked about the three main Merino profit drivers of fertility, fibre and carcass attributes and as prices for the latter two are decreasing it is even more important to maximize production opportunities from all three. To that end I feel we are in as sweet a spot as any to cover these options. The Icebreaker Contracts, although reduced, are still well ahead of the commodity market and the Silere Meat Contract has given us security of price through this selling season at price levels that are profitable and sustainable. Incidentally, we won the inaugural Silere Supplier of the Year for 2014 from 120 suppliers including Corriedales, Halfbreds and Samms. What was really great about it is that it shows that PURE merinos can be very competitive, even against hybrid vigour! Another interesting simple commercial comparison is between our Merryville ewe genetics at Randolph which returned us 2.16 kg clean at $20.00 and our “Muller” ewes which returned 4.96 kg clean at $15.50 - a $35.00 advantage per sheep before factoring in higher fertility and heavier carcasses!
DNA testing for foot-rot is continuing and each season we are seeing improvement in the percentage of sheep with above average scores. On that note we have two rams in the Merino Company’s Central Progeny Test and for footrot resistance they rank first and ninth out of 40 rams used. One or other also ranked well for fleece weight, staple strength and worm egg count.
This year’s rams have been muscle-scanned again and although the group was only 2 kgs heavier than last year (scanned at the same time) 26 of them had a better scanning index than the best of 2013. (Of these 26, 20 of them were twins!) We are placing strong emphasis on this trait when selecting future sires to use in the Stud.
This year’s rams were shorn on the 18th September. Again they have been fleece tested, both as hoggets and now as rising 2-2ths, DNA foot-scored, Brucellosis tested and muscle-scanned. (Hopefully fleece results back in early Feb.) We have approx. 180 in the mob at this stage so we look forward to catching up with those of you who want to have a look again.
We welcome new enquiry and with the Molesworth road open, we’re only 2 hours from Hanmer Springs. The rams are handy so it’s no problem to run them in for appraisal and a yarn at any time.
Finally, Marlborough Stud Breeders, in conjunction with the Marlborough Merino Association biannual 2-2th competition, is having a Stud Tour on the 16th and 17th of April. All the local Studs will be on display so put those dates in your diary and come and have a look at what we all can offer. Arguably there has been more genetic horse-power come to Marlborough in the last few years than to anywhere else and with our emphasis on “Dual-Purpose” we believe we have a point of difference! We are looking forward to seeing you.