While the May family from Cootra on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula put around 4455 ha to cereals and peas each year, their 1000 Merino ewes mated to White Suffolk rams are an important part of their Mayome Pty Ltd enterprise. And the White Suffolks acheive more than just a marketable lamb.
“I don’t think we’d ever go out of sheep - we’ll always keep some paddocks for our stock,”
... claims Paul who runs the enterprise with wife Helen and son Ashley and his wife Anna.
While other terminal sires (Dorsets and Suffolks) have been tried in the past, the Mays intend to stick to White Suffolks because of how well they adapt to the area.
“Their growth rates are really good - we can sometimes get lambs out in 12 to 13 weeks. The way we look at it, the quicker the lambs are off the property, the less the cost involved”, he said.
Rams come from the Hull family’s Kattata Well stud at Port Kenny, SA, which has a Nunji Flat background.
“We always look very carefully at LAMBPLAN figures including post weaning weights, fat scores and carcase weights,” said Paul.
They also look for rams that aren’t too big in the shoulders ta assist with lambing.
“For the last three to four years we have had no trouble with lambing because we’ve had a lot of multiple births so we’ve had a lot of smaller lambs.
Paul said he looked for twins and triplets when buying rams and was willing to pay nore to secure them to increase multiple births.
“We now have a high percentage of multiple births - over the past two years we,ve had 120pc lambing percentage”, he said.
The high lambing percentage is also helped with a strategic fox baiting program that assists ewes with more than one lamb to look after. Fox baiting in November and March targets young foxes more prone to take baits and reduces fox attacks when ewes start lambing in early August.
Cast-for-age ewes are sold off as six to seven year olds and replaced with three year olds usually form the Jamestown market.
Most lambs go to Austral Meats at Strathalbyn, some to Thomas Foods Internationals while the heavier one go to Dublin.
As soon as the first 100 lambs reach 42 kgs live or 18 kgs dressed they’re off to Austral. The rest get the first pick of the barley stubble and are followed by the ewes.
If dry weather results in no paddock feed by March, lambs are lot-fed as a last resort.
The property is self sufficient for feed with 20 to 40 ha of oats producing about 1000 bags of oats each year. Every three or four years a contractor bales oaten hay meaning no feed has been bought in for the past 20 years.
The sheep are also useful in the control of brome, barley and rye grasses, and ewe numbers may be increased to help with this.