Stock beats crop for West Coast grower

PAUL Carey will promptly tell you he prefers stock over crop and it took him little time to build sheep numbers and notch a 100-bale wool target after moving from family properties near Chandada to a farm at Kaldoonera, near Cungena on SA’s West Coast, about six years ago.

Paul and his wife, Michelle, started with 1500 sheep and have increased that to more than 3500 Merinos on their 4000-hectare ‘Talieka Pastoral’ property. They also grow wheat, barley, oats, peas and, occasionally, canola.

Paul said his father also favoured sheep and while the sheep to crop ratio was around 50:50, he was likely to move it toward 60:40.

“We will probably just crop the good country. I don’t see the sense in spraying out good grass. With modern day chemicals and farm management, I believe I can maximise returns by leaving some manageable grasses for wool and stock production without having a negative impact on crops that follow pasture rotations,’’ he said.

The Careys also run about 120 young cattle in a feedlot.

White River genetics have been the base for Carey family sheep for many years and nothing has changed since Paul moved to Kaldoonera.

“We’ve been buying White River’s top rams for more than 25 years. I remember going there with Dad as a kid and now they are my next door neighbour,’’ Paul said.

“White River just breed sheep that thrive in this country and that’s what we are looking for. They are renowned big-framed, heavy wool cutters with good yields.’’

The Careys achieved an average 7.36 kilograms of wool per head from the shearing of 2518 grown sheep. The last 170 averaged more than 8kg/head.

Paul said they were always looking to improve the bottomline with the sheep and the best chance of this was by improving the wool cut.

He has resisted the trend toward finer wool production.

“We try to maintain 21 micron as the base. We see 21 micron as what this country can consistently produce.’’

The Careys ensure experienced rams go in with the maiden ewes and most of the sheep are run in age lines.

After grazing stubbles, the ewes have access to oat feeders in paddocks as well as supplement blocks.

They lamb down from early April and the lambs run back with their mothers for a month after shearing at the end of July.

“The extra month and milk is better for them,’’ Paul said.

The lambs are weaned onto high protein medic pastures after receiving Weanerguard vaccine or a copper cobalt bullet.

Wether lambs sold at 11 months of age have weighed in at about 80-90 kilograms.

Hoggets are shorn with 10 months wool growth to hit a target length of 80-85 millimetres, which has proved successful in the market.

After shearing, the ‘Talieka Pastoral’ clip is soon put to auction on the advice of local Quality Wool marketing representative Lawrence Seal.

“Lawrence is very good with his support and we find, with the law of averages, that by getting it into sales , over a long period of time it works out to be the average,’’ Paul said.