Top ‘Condo’ producers still proudly riding sheep’s back

FOR some mixed farmers, cropping enterprises have increased at the expense of sheep operations in recent times, but for Condobolin producers Ian and Jane Menzies, sheep and wool still remain a primary focus.

In fact, the Menzies are looking to increase their sheep numbers and reduce their crop production.

They crop about 1215 hectares of their 3200ha ‘Moonbah Pastoral’ property to wheat and oats, while they also sow down lucerne and clovers, and they run about 3000 Merino sheep and lambs and 100 Angus cows.

Acquisition of some additional land enabled them to increase ewe numbers from about 900 to 1300 currently, and Ian said they aimed to increase the ewe flock further to 1500 and reduce the cropping to about 1000ha.

Land is cropped for two to three years before going into a pasture phase for four to five years.

Two time winners of the local Don Brown Memorial Merino Ewe Field Days competition (2013 and 2014), the Menzies have continued to strive to improve wool quality.

They target good framed sheep with nice, bright wools measuring about 20 microns for the grown sheep and 18 microns for the weaners. This has taken them on a bloodline path from Eudora stud at Nyngan to Wanganella at Deniliquin and, in more recent times, to Woodpark stud at Jerilderie.

The Menzies hold three shearings over a two-year period. Following lambing in July-August, weaners are shorn in December, the flock is classed and shorn again in July, with surplus stock sold at the local saleyard in September, and then the main shearing occurs in March.

“It splits it up, so we don’t have a bulk of shearing,’’ Ian said.

“We used to run the weaners through to the main shearing, but it’s been better to keep the wool off them so they can be free of burr.

“When we were running them through for 12 months, the wool was also over-length.

“The wool growth is about 10 millimetres a month, so our length at shearing is about 70-75mm.’’

Wool yields are better from the July shearing, at about 67-68 per cent, whereas dust over summers contributes to 62-63pc yields from the March shearing.

The sheep cut about 5.5 kilograms of wool per head and the main shearing produces about 50 bales of wool, in addition to 12-14 bales from the weaners and about 15 bales from the July shearing.

Ian said the three recent shearings had been exceptional and they worked closely with local wool marketing representative Craig Davis, Quality Wool, to market their clip, which was generally sold through the auction system. They have, however, previously considered a forward contract for a portion of their main shearing.

“Craig is local, knows the area and has provided very strong service to us for many years,’’ Ian said.

The Menzies recent shearing produced 45 bales and achieved an average of $1446 per bale at auction, which they were very pleased with.

Lambs receive a 6 in 1 vaccine at marking, followed at weaning with a further booster as well as Triguard drench and Vetrazin, two months prior to the shearing in December.

Ewes are joined from early February for six weeks, followed by a two-week period before the main shearing.

After shearing, the ewes go back onto stubbles and are supplementary fed straight oats, while the weaners also receive oats in feeders and pea hay.

The ewes are pregnancy scanned in early May and while the Menzies have separated single and twin-bearing ewes into mobs in the past, this is dependent upon feed supply.

They aim to turn their wethers off at around 10 months of age, generally to the Forbes saleyards or direct to abattoirs.

They also have previously topped the local breeders’ sale in September with 15-month-old surplus maiden ewes, while their older ewes are sold during November-December.Craig Davis, Quality Wool, Condobolin farmers Jane and Ian Menzies and ‘Moonbah Pastoral’ employee Peter Baxter pictured at the Don Brown Memorial Merino Ewe Field Days. The Menzies are looking to increase their sheep numbers and reduce their crop production, and they continue to strive to improve wool quali