AS a self-confessed numbers man, South Australian farmer Greg Hayes knows that Merinos are the most profitable breed for his sheep and cropping enterprise.
Mr Hayes and wife, Kerrie, own 1250-hectare Semor at Redhill in South Australia's Mid North along with 70ha of leased country in a 400mm-410mm rainfall area.
The Hayes have three children - Patrick (28), Amber (26) and Daniel (23) - with Daniel recently joining the business after becoming a qualified boilermaker.
They run 660 breeding ewes and crop 850ha of wheat, barley and legumes along with 150ha of feed including 40ha of hay.
Mr Hayes has been farming for more than 40 years and still uses tried and true methods used by his father, grandfather and great grandfather while incorporating more modern approaches in other aspects of his business.
For him, it needs to make sense to the bottom line.
"We've always used Merinos here, we can get a premium wool clip and they are truly dual-purpose," he said.
"In a self-replacing flock I can use my own ewe lambs as breeders, so we only have to buy three or four rams per year unless we have an excess of feed, in which case we can buy extra stock in on an opportunity basis to capitalise on that. We have that flexibility."
Rams are joined on the first Tuesday in November at 2.5-3 per cent which is one of those '"tried and true" Hayes family farming methods.
The rams are left in for two months for an April-May lamb drop.
Mr Hayes said they were now achieving 100pc lambing rate but hoped to increase that by putting ewes into smaller paddocks during lambing on a trial basis.
"Having the 100pc lambing percentage is great but I would like to see if we can push that out further because having more lambs at weaning means more profit," he said.
Last year the Hayes family sold 477 lambs at an average price of $180 a head with the first line of 200 weighing an average of 26kg and fetching $196.38.
"They were only 9.5-10 months old, so to average $180 across the lot, well, we were pretty happy with that result," Mr Hayes said.
"Factoring in that we shore the lambs in October and got an average of $34.50 a head for their wool, we were able to produce a $214 animal in under 10 months."
Shearing takes place at Semor three times in two years, or every eight months, with the annual clip size subsequently varying from 35-75 bales.
The ewes average 22.5 micron and the lambs 19.5m with the overall clip averaging 67-71pc yield, 45-60nkt strength and an average length of 78mm.
"We're trying to breed a big-framed sheep with free growing, tight, white wool to keep the dust out," he said.
Mr Hayes said he had calculated that he was cutting $160 per head of wool off his breeding ewes every two years, or $80 a year per head.
"I did have an exceptional result last year and we got 1544 cents a kilogram (greasy) from the breeding ewes which was so great after so many years of hard work for not much, so we enjoy it while we can."
Mr Hayes' vaccination schedule includes a dose of Ivermectin when the lambs are weaned, which is at 11-12 weeks old.
They are weaned onto a specially sown paddock of oats undersown with Rasina vetch with 60kg of MAP fertiliser.
"We have always weaned the lambs early, it's something my father taught me," he said.
"A lamb will be a bit slow to recover for the first three weeks but by the time they are two months weaned, they will be more robust and growing faster than the average lamb still with their mum and the ewe will also recover condition and put on weight, so it's a win-win."
The Hayes have just established their own feedlot with the aim of adding another 4kg of weight onto their lambs.
The 40-metre by 40m pen holds 150 head and sheep will be fed a mix of barley and oats, some hay and 10pc peas, along with a pellet mix at 25kg a tonne.
"We're hoping to value-add to our lambs and the thinking is that by locking them up they won't be able to walk it off.
"We generally weigh them on visual inspection and like to sell the top line off to allow the second line to come through, trying to keep them under the 32kg mark, so we'll sell them in three lots.
"I think after two years we should have a good indication of whether or not the feedlot has been worthwhile."
While many of his neighbours have opted for full cropping programs Mr Hayes has never wavered from Merino production, partly because Semor is not fully arable but also because he favours the breed from a business perspective.
"We've always been Merino producers, they are so well-suited to this area and our production system, as 25pc of our land is undulating and hilly, so having stock, particularly Merinos, is our most profitable choice."
- This case study is part of the Breed More Merino Ewes campaign. To read other case studies or to find out more, go to www.merinos.com.au.
The story 'Old and new' methods are driving Merino profits at Redhill first appeared on Farm Online.