Queensland agistment helps Egelabra fast forward

Egelabra looks to Queensland to survive worst rainfall in 130 years

Livestock
Egelabra staff and the Elders northern zone wool team together with the shearing team on the board at Springleigh, west of Blackall last week. Picture - Lisa Alexander Photography.

Egelabra staff and the Elders northern zone wool team together with the shearing team on the board at Springleigh, west of Blackall last week. Picture - Lisa Alexander Photography.

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Last year was the driest since records began at Egelabra in central New South Wales but thanks to agistment in western Queensland, Australia's oldest closed stud has hit the fast forward button.

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Last year was the driest since records began at Egelabra in central New South Wales but thanks to agistment in western Queensland, Australia's oldest closed stud has hit the fast forward button.

Thanks to contacts within the sheep stud's celebrated jackaroo system, they were able to source enough grass on three properties between Blackall and Isisford to provide ongoing feed for 11,000 of their mixed age commercial ewes.

Eleven months later they are cutting an average of seven kilograms of wool and don't have to face the prospect of breeding their way back to somewhere like a normal position.

Long-term manager Cam Munro was in Queensland last week to help put shearing through on two of the three properties and took advantage of the occasion to hold open days, in conjunction with the Elders northern wool team.

Producers from Blackall, Muttaburra, Charleville, Stonehenge, and Barcaldine districts travelled to the sessions at Springleigh, west of Blackall and Neleh Downs, south of Isisford.

"People were really able to see why it was worth us doing what we did," Mr Munro said.

"The value of a ewe when we started was between $100 and $140.

"In our area now, a scanned-in-lamb ewe is worth $350.

"To come out of it the way we have - the Merino ewe is our core to get going again."

He said if they had sold the wool last week it would have covered the cost of a year's agistment plus freight bills.

A year ago they were outlaying $400 a tonne for barley and between $350 and $400/tonne for hay, or a per head cost of $2 to $2.25 a week.

That was against a background of 122mm of rain recorded for the whole year at their Eenaweena property, the smallest amount marked on rainfall charts since 1890.

"Everyone was searching for agistment - we wouldn't have found what we did without our connections," Mr Munro said.

They included past jackaroos Ben Banks, whose parents Jack and Rhonda Banks own Springleigh, and Will Alexander, whose parents Bruce and Lisa Alexander are at Warringah, to the west of Terrick Terrick.

Ewes were sent to both those properties as well as to Nelah Downs, with connections to current jackaroo Callum Jackson.

In the case of Springleigh, it was also there that Mr Munro's uncle, Ian Munro worked when the property was a Boonoke ram depot, so it was a sort of coming home.

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Thanks to the scanning operation that Mr Banks operates commercially, Egelabra has been able to identify early and late lambing ewes while they're still in Queensland.

Mr Munro said they had joined a month earlier than they normally would, thanks to rain in December, and have left the rams in.

They now plan to keep the early lambing ewes separate when they truck them back to Warren, which has had relief rain of 200mm.

At the moment, approximately 70 per cent are in lamb but they are hopeful of a 90pc result when they lamb in May.

Mr Munro said the western Queensland wool scene had a very positive vibe, thanks to the exclusion fences put up, and the prices received.

"A client at Winton sold ewes last week for $210, 91pc scanned in lamb with 7-8 months wool," he said.

"It seems dear but they've only got to wait for three or four months and they get the full value of the wool, plus progeny.

"The value of a store wether lamb at 25kg might be $125, and you've got the ewe progeny to keep breeding with."

He said he fully understood people leaving an industry confronted with low prices and wild dog predation but thought they were now realising that parts of western Queensland were best suited to sheep breeding.

"As ram sellers we feel things have bottomed out and the tide is turning," he said.

Elders northern zone wool manager Bruce McLeish said it was excellent to see the Egelabra group in Queensland with their sheep.

He said it emphasised their support of the growth of the Merino industry in the state on the back of most growers receiving a break in the season and the continued expansion of exclusion fencing programs.

Mr Munro said traders had had a very good run in the last 10 to 15 years but the industry was certainly back in a breeding cycle now.

One of his ongoing focuses would be on continuing to encourage the fresh wave of young people showing an interest in the industry.

They included his overseer Matt Kelly, from Oak Park at Charleville.

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