Sheep investments help to mitigate risk at Pingaring
AFTER running the numbers, the Wyatt family’s decision to increase sheep numbers in favour of upping their cropping program was relatively simple.
Evan and Jeni Wyatt, together with their son, Patrik, farm across 3700-hectares at ‘Eastland’, near Pingaring.
The family runs 1500 Merino breeders and 1500 white tag weaners, as well as cropping 3000ha to wheat, canola, barley, oats and lupins.
This year they have increased their sheep numbers, which Evan said was a decision geared towards risk management.
“We’re close to 70 per cent cropping now, but increasing our sheep numbers will change that slightly,” Evan said.
“We’re heading that way due to rotational pressures – and generally because there’s less risk with sheep than there is with full crop.
“We lowered the average micron of our wool from 21 down to 19, without sacrificing any fleece weight.
“We were trying to value-add the wool at that point, because there wasn’t much money in it then, and it was a good move.
“We used to have a crossbred operation using terminal sires, but the Merinos always held up well in comparison. Even when the wool market was down, they were profitable.
“So when we went our own ways about four years ago, I decided to simplify and just stick with Merinos.”
The rams and ewes are joined in January, at 2 per cent, for a June drop, in the hope they will be lambing onto green feed.
Evan said that routine had allowed them to maintain a lambing percentage of 100pc of ewes mated.
Lighter stocking rates and nutrition also play key roles in their sheep enterprise. Evan said they fed a mix of lupins and barley through self-feeders.
He said they held back a silo of barley each year, in case of a seasonal emergency.
“We’re scared of that year where you don’t have any feed, so we would rather be safe than sorry.”
Constantly on the lookout for new ideas, this season the Wyatts are planting their first seed bank of Margurita French serradella.
It will be sown on light country, instead of sub clover, as a productive and nitrogen-rich option on areas that are frost-prone or have mismatched soil type not suited to full cropping.
Their hard work was acknowledged last year, when they were awarded WAMMCO Producer of the Year in the Merino small supplier category, for producers supplying under 500 lambs a year.
“I don’t think we do anything special. We’re just careful with our animals, but it’s nice to be recognised,” Evan said.
Evan attributes much of their success to being supported by a strong team of agronomy, marketing and livestock professionals, including Jane Bushby, Gangells Ag Solutions, which is also a livestock representative for Westcoast Wool & Livestock in the region.
He said Jane assisted with marketing and weighing lambs and helped them set targets, which was generally between 52-54kg (liveweight) when destined for WAMMCO.
“When they’re almost one, we will bring them in and shear them to get a 3kg fleece at 17-micron and then sell them as they come up to target weight.’’
“Gangells are very good stock people. They’re doing a fantastic job and we’re very lucky to have them.”
The Wyatt’s shed was actually the first roustabout job for now Westcoast Wool & Livestock Director Brad Faithfull, who helps with the family’s wool marketing along with Westcoast’s Lake Grace wool representative, Darren Spencer.
“Where we can graze sheep and grow clover, we will, because that’s less risky than growing a canola or lupin crop on that land.
“Particularly with prices as they are right now, they are lending towards a pretty profitable rotation with clover, sheep and cereal.”
In-line with that decision, the Wyatts have upgraded some of their livestock infrastructure, investing in a new sheep feeder bin with auger, a set of permanent yards and portable yards, and they have just finished improving their second shearing shed.
As two-thirds of the farm is located 20 kilometres east of their home block, the second shearing shed will reduce the need to transport sheep to the main shed – although Evan said they would still have plenty of use for highly-rated local transport company, Fyfe Transport.
With a pure Merino flock, wool plays an important part of the Wyatt’s enterprise and it’s one they value highly.
Originally based on Strath Haddon bloodlines, Evan said since the stud ceased operation, they had purchased rams from Fred Leo’s Leovale stud, near Lake Grace.
They produce an annual clip of around 80 bales from an annual March shearing, at an average micron of 18.5.
“When my brother (Dean) and I were farming together, so going back about 8-10 years, we did micron testing and fleece weighing for five years,” Evan said.
“It’s quite funny really – now Brad helps us to sell our wool,” Evan laughed.
“We’ve been with Westcoast for a long time and while I do follow the market, I listen to their advice, because I know I can trust it.
“We usually sell the clip in one lot as soon as the price is right. We have considered forward selling and it may be an option for us in the future, as the size of the wool clip increases.”