STICKING with Merinos through the tough years has paid off for Tamworth fine woolgrower, David Gowing.
Mr Gowing and his daughter, Stephanie Cayley, run a flock of 600, including 280 ewes, at “Dunleigh” and “Wyoming”.
Mr Gowing has always had Merinos and believed, on average, they provided the best farm return.
“I came out of the New England between Bundarra and Kingstown and brought sheep with me and over my lifetime, Merinos have always had the best return,” he said.
“I’ve always said I’ve made more money out of sheep on average than any other enterprise.”
Mr Gowing has been buying Petali rams for the past three years.
“They’ve got a good staple length, reasonable size, they fit the criteria for micron and they’re `pollies’, which I prefer.
“They’re bigger sheep but with a good micron.”
With the focus on a large finewool sheep, Mr Gowing selects heavily on frame.
“When we’re looking for rams, they’re all in the top ranking for yearling body weight.”
His key to successful economic production in Merinos is selling all wethers as lambs, adding diversification to the production and allowing Mr Gowing to run more ewes.
“We sell all wether lambs through the weekly prime sale at Tamworth and until this year we’ve had a restocker buying our cull Merino ewe lambs.
“That’s why breeding sheep with good bodyweight is so important, so they can also meet the meat trade – that’s the critical factor for us in running a profitable Merino production.”
Mr Gowing gets his value from the Merinos through two shearings a year.
Ewes lamb in July and August and are shorn in December and June.
“We were getting wool that was 18-micron and over 120 millimetres in length so we were getting penalised for length,” he said.
“My woolbroker at Jemalong Wool advised us to try shearing twice, and going on the last shearing, they returned more than $70 a head for the year, plus about $17 for the lambs wool.
“On that basis with the wool, and $130 to $150 for the lamb through the yards, it’s up to $250 gross that a ewe’s making for me over the year.”
Lambs are sold at almost 12 months of age and are usually shorn before sale.
Mr Gowing sold lambs before March that made $164 and another lot at $130 earlier in the year. His latest lambs made $145 at Tamworth a few weeks ago.
The best half of the ewe lambs are kept, then culled again to identify the top 30pc.
“We classify fleeces at shearing time and then we go through the sheep grading for type, size and any other faults after that June shearing,” Mr Gowing said.
“We grade the ewe lamb fleeces at shearing time then go through the sheep and depending on their wool grading and their confirmation, we either keep or cull.”
Mr Gowing has seen some dramatic changes over the years with wool production and while there have been some tough years for the market and with seasonal conditions, they still, on average, been very profitable.
“Sheep go up and down – they’re very profitable at the moment and they’ve never remained at a high level for many years, but on average they’re always very profitable. And because of the very low sheep numbers in Australia at the moment I think we’ve got a good chance of the market holding up for some time, so the future's looking good.”