Big, healthy Merinos win out on West Coast

GOOD framed, healthy Merinos are the ticket for a productive sheep business when you farm west of Ceduna near the coastline in South Australia, where growing seasons can be short.

The Wright family, fourth generation producers in the Charra area, have always depended on Merinos and their strong performance in local ewe hogget competitions is testament to the quality of their flock.

“We can’t finish crossbreds out here. With our early finishes, they don’t fatten much,’’ said Craig Wright, who took on the running of the farm from his father, Garry, about four years ago.

Receiving about 300 millimetres of rainfall annually, the Wrights run 1700 grown sheep, 700 hoggets and 1500-1600 lambs. They are aiming for 2000 breeding ewes.

They also crop around 2020 hectares of their 7500ha (6000ha arable) property, ‘The Gums’, to wheat and some oats.

Their flock has been based on White River bloodlines for about 15 years.

“We need those sheep for size in this country. We have been looking at more depth in the body,’’ Craig said.

“We normally get about six rams a year. They are decent framed sheep and they produce good wool.

“We buy the rams at about 19-20 micron and they won’t blow out in this country.

“We are trying to keep the ewes at around 21 wool micron. Our yields are up around high 60s to 70 per cent.’’

The Wrights brought their lambing forward to April to allow for one complete shearing and they wean around early spring.

“They go on to self-sown oats with feeders. They start their lives off really well,’’ Craig said.

After harvest, sheep go on to stubbles, but they also have access to oats in feeders through the summer months.

“We run a lot of feeders right the way through to green feed,’’ Craig said.

“We have really noticed the benefit with the sheep and the good nourishment in the wool from the feeding. They are up around 6 kilograms with the cut.

“They are better framed, healthier and we get better milking from the mothers. We are pushing late 80s with the lambing percentages and, if not for the stillborns, we could have been in the mid 90s.’’

The Wrights also use lick feeders and add Beachport liquid mineral supplements to stock water.

Vitamin B1 and B12 injections are another important treatment.

“We have got to keep the Vitamin B up – it makes a lot of difference on this coastal country,’’ Craig said.

‘The Gums’ wool clip usually comprises 75-80 bales and is sold through Quality Wool. Local marketing representative Lawrence Seal, based at Wudinna, has been assisting the Wrights since he joined the company in the late 90s.

“It has been really good. We generally put it straight on the market after shearing, but sometimes we have held off until February,’’ Craig said.

The Wrights also ensure no sheep remain on the farm beyond about six years of age.

“This means we don’t have the deaths or any troubles with lambing and we get more money because the sheep that are sold are younger,’’ Craig said.

Quality Wool’s Lawrence Seal and Charra farmer Craig Wright take a close look at the top quality sheep and wool grown on the Wrights property, ‘The Gums’.

Quality Wool’s Lawrence Seal and Charra farmer Craig Wright take a close look at the top quality sheep and wool grown on the Wrights property, ‘The Gums’.