POLL Dorset rams are used over first-cross ewes at “Glendon”, Tamworth, owned by Bede and Narelle Burke.
“We’ve dabbled in everything from Merinos and Border Leicesters to breed our first-cross ewes, but we found we were better off purchasing mixed-sex first-cross weaners,” Mr Burke said.
“So we buy couple of hundred maiden ewes every year and with the wethers, we shear them, finish them and they’re sold at the Tamworth prime sale.”
Mr Burke uses Poll Dorset rams from Uralla stud, Amelie Poll Dorsets, focusing on conformation and structure.
“I like them to be uniform when I’m buying them and getting the first opportunity to buy from someone’s drop is a real benefit,” Mr Burke said.
“We get the top six, eight or 10 of the Amelie drop. With the Amelie rams, they’re relatively new but the Sharpes have been prepared to spend money on good bloodlines and now all of our progeny comes from their rams.”
With the ewes, the focus is on bodyweight.
“We look for ewes that are well-grown, preferably western type because I think they grow a little bit bigger,” Mr Burke said.
“They have the broader wool, but it’s not the first criteria for us.
“We get ewes that are ready to join or close to the right body weight and with AuctionsPlus there’s always good pictures and they’re assessed in terms of body weight and fleece.”
Mr Burke said he gets a good number of twins.
“We’re marking between 110 per cent and 130pc lambs and the first-cross ewes are fantastic mothers," Mr Burke said.
“The crossbreds have the hybrid vigour and they milk well.”
Last year 70pc of the lambs were sold as suckers as “that’s where the best returns are”.
“We’re getting rid of them in five or six months because once you shear you’re stuck with them for another six to eight weeks while they recover from the shearing process.
“The others that we’ve had for 10 months only get another $20 or $25 a head so I’d rather make $140 from a lamb in five months so they’re out of the road before our harvest."
Mr Burke has been building up numbers since purchasing another property, “Allawah”, three years ago.
The sheep work well with the family’s caged egg production and no-till farming.
“The sheep are mostly on sorghum stubble with high sulphur blocks, but dryland lucerne and oats seem to get them through to spring really well,” he said.
“The sheep can save you a fallow spray if you use them well. They’re good on fencelines and waterways, around dam banks – they’ll clean up any residual plants that are there.”