”I’m excited about the idea of joining Merino rams, and breeding good wool – as a livestock producer, we’ve had those challenges taken away from us in the name of survival.”
Muttaburra’s Lisa Magoffin grew up on a sheep property south of Longreach. She says breeding good wool is at her core, but it’s something that takes longer to be really good at.
“It’s very satisfying, if you’re allowed to do it well,” she said.
Lisa had the pleasure of unloading eight decks – 750 head – of Merino ewes joined to a Dorper ram, at Ashra Downs earlier this month.
It was the first time sheep had been on the property in 13 years, and the decision to purchase them was one made consciously by Lisa and her partner Scott Milne.
Lisa has run Ashra Downs as an exclusively beef operation since purchasing it in 2010 but was keen to take up the option to diversify and get back into sheep, especially as all the property’s sheep infrastructure remains in reasonably good condition.
“It’s really hard to plan out more than two years with cattle,” she said. “Seasons are unsure and markets are uncertain.
“Breeding heifers is a three-year operation. In our region it takes a long time to get those kilograms into the marketplace. I think it has to be a short-term trade job for cattle, especially as it’s hard to know what the market will be like in two years.
“Supply can’t meet demand at the moment so we might lose market share to countries that can fill the demand.”
Cattle remain a part of Lisa’s operation, thanks to the purchase of Swanvale at Jundah two years ago as a drought strategy.
She has her last 800 breeders there at present, making use of buffel grass feed that has proliferated since a run in the Thomson channels, and is not looking at returning any to Ashra Downs before being assured of a summer season.
Then it will probably be weaners that come back for backgrounding.
Lisa said the sheep market offered long-term consistency and she liked the diversity offered by Merino ewes.
The threat of wild dogs, while not imminent, is on Lisa’s horizon and she has spoken to QRAA about a loan.
On the figures done, she estimates a fence would cost her $27,000 a year, over a 20-year period.
“I’d have to look at an increase in production to cover that,” she said. “I think I’d only need to increase by 10 per cent – it’s not a lot and I’d be looking after my country too.”
Lisa added that if she waited too long for grant money, it could cost her valuable time.
The newly-arrived sheep were a windfall for her, the result of an unwanted joining that cost her $90 a head, and she’s looking at other opportunities to make better use of the prolific winter herbage.
“We can see our way through the next three or four months but we have to wait and see if we get summer rain before we commit to really expensive breeder stock,” she said.