Getting the basics right a profitable opportunity

Lachlan Merinos genetics key to Parsons' operation

Livestock
Andrew and Di Parsons purchased Altonvale, between Westmar and St George, at the beginning of 2019 and are focused on developing a highly-efficient Merino operation.

Andrew and Di Parsons purchased Altonvale, between Westmar and St George, at the beginning of 2019 and are focused on developing a highly-efficient Merino operation.

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Andrew and Di Parsons relocated to the St George district just in time for the worst drought on record.

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Some people may question Andrew and Di Parsons' decision to swap the 'security' of irrigation for dryland grazing, but they see it as an opportunity.

Relocating from the Forbes region of NSW at the beginning of 2019, the Parsons are in the process of developing their new property Altonvale, between Westmar and St George, into a highly-efficient Merino operation that is based on getting the basics right.

"We had an irrigated mixed farm down south and it was time for a change with the corporates moving in and families moving out," Mr Parsons said.

"The Lachlan is so unreliable for water for irrigation. We had a lot of money tied up in water that we could rarely use - 41 per cent average allocation in 20 years just doesn't cut it.

"We decided to pull our money out and put it into something that would have a better chance of being productive."

The Parsons looked everywhere from Naracoorte in South Australia, through to Hughenden, eventually deciding on 7100 hectares of red loam country with quality buffel pastures that had previously run cattle.

"We wanted to find a farm that suited our vision and this was it," Mr Parsons said.

"We didn't want something that was 100pc done; we thought we were better off buying something a little less tidy that would suit sheep and that we could put the effort in and get a reward for our effort."

Arriving "just in time for the worst drought on record", the Parsons say it was a bit of a tough start.

"The sheep arrived two days before we did, and we found them scattered from here to Flinton.

"We have since completed a new exclusion fence around the boundary, about 30-odd kilometres, and then we had to build sheep infrastructure - shearing shed, yards, all that sort of thing."

A turnaround in season means they can now build their flock and continue to develop infrastructure.

"We had five inches in 2019 and we've had 14 already this year and the buffel is starting to get going quite well which is fantastic," Mr Parsons said.

"I think we should be able to get up to around 6000 or 7000 ewes and then if we start cell grazing, maybe we can go even higher."

The Parsons are clients of Glen and Margot Rubie's Lachlan Merinos stud at Forbes, drawn to them for the heavy wool cutters with plenty of bright soft wool, shearing ease, high growth rates, and easy management.

"Lachlan Merinos rams are big, they cut a lot of wool and grow a lot of meat. We've been there for a long time and that's where we'll be staying," Mr Parsons said.

"The size of the ram is what we're trying to chase, so we can breed big frame ewes and lambs that can put on a lot of meat, growing plenty of good soft stylish 19 to 20 micron wool.

"We're picking the rams that have got a bit more meat on them if we can, to give it a bit of an each-way bet. If we have a choice between two rams, we will pick the ram with the longest twist.

"Lachlan Merinos have the genetic ability to cut in excess of 8.5 to 9.5kg of wool per year, so if we can get to 7kg in the short term we are happy."

Lifetime Ewe Management

The Parsons believe there is always room for improvement and with the recent move to Queensland, they see it as the perfect time to participate in a Lifetime Ewe Management course.

The Parsons were keen to do the LTEM course when they were in NSW after identifying that it would move their enterprise forward significantly.

They believed that if they could set up a group in Queensland, they could not only gain the benefits of the course, but also meet other producers in the area who are looking to achieve more with their flock

Mrs Parsons has recently established her own LTEM group of producers and said they are looking forward to being part of a like-minded self-mentoring group of farmers.

"LTEM is a great way to meet other farmers who are also keen to mentor and learn from each other and have similar interests," Mrs Parsons said.

"As we are new to the district, it is really important to learn from local knowledge and become part of the community so that we can move forward as quickly as possible."

The Australian Wool Innovation subsidised course will help producers to improve ewe management, increase weaning rates, efficiently utilise their pastures for quality and nutrition, and feed budget.

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