White Suffolks are proving their worth on pastoral country in Far West NSW
Source: Stock Journal
By ALISHA FOGDEN
Right - Bono Station managers Craig and Rebel Bell rounding up their lambs for marking with children Ollie, 2, and Millie and Poppy, both 7
Below - : The White Suffolk first-cross lambs in for marking at Bono Station near Menindee in Far West NSW
WHILE more commonly used in high rainfall, mixed farming zones, White Suffolks are also proving their worth on pastoral country in Far West NSW.
Property managers Craig and Rebel Bell run about 4000 Merino ewes at 52,000-hectare Bono Station on the Darling River east of Menindee.
About a third of the property is flood-out country, with the rest grassland and Mallee spinifex country.
The Bell family moved from Kingston in the South East to Bono in 1995 with expansion plans.
Only Merinos were run at the time, until the wool job bottomed out in the late ‘90s.
“We decided to get into crossbreds to have a more consistent income with lambs and wool,” he said.
They started out with black and white-faced Suffolks, but eventually went to all White Suffolk rams, which are used over the entire flock.
“We have bought our White Suffolk rams from the same breeder for about 10 years,” Craig said.
“We are after fit, healthy rams with good muscle composition that thrive and survive – something that’s going to eat whatever and walk to where it needs to go.
“And getting fantastic genetics behind that is a bonus as all his sheep are very sound, with good feet and are top performers.
“White Suffolks seem to perform well in this country, from what we have seen with other British breeds.
“They’re stronger in tough times, which can be frequent up here.”
The property averages about 225 millimetres of rainfall annually.
But this start started particularly dry, with virtually no rain until the end of April.
“We had our first big rain April 29 and since then, it has been fantastic,” he said.
“Lambs hit the ground mid-May on to a nice green pick and it has kept going, with a good rain every few weeks.
“Now we have awesome winter feed.”
Lambing percentage is normally 80 to 90 per cent, but Craig said it was closer to 90pc this year.
“The White Suffolk rams went in mid-December and obviously performed well in the dry,” he said.
The first-cross lambs are sold in September, when the flock comes in for shearing.
Of the 3500 suckers, about 2500 make the grade to be sold on AuctionsPlus.
This happens every year and the 30-32 kilogram lambs attract repeat buyers.
“We have sold to the same buyer seven times in the past 10 years,” Craig said.
“It’s because we can consistently produce that amount of lambs at those weights and they then perform extremely well for these fellas as well.
“We will generally always hit the 30kg liveweight mark, because the Merino mothers get them there.
“But if we keep them after that, and it’s a poor year, they lose condition very quickly.”
Last September, the 4-5 month-old lambs sold up to $92.
The other 1000 head are generally sold before Christmas, if they make the weights.
“Last year we had a heaps of late lambs though, so we have had to keep them on past Christmas to get them to a decent size,” Craig said.
“We will shear them before selling them as 10-12 month-olds probably at Ouyen.
“But the main focus though is to sell them as suckers and avoid all the extra effort.”
Craig said he sold about 100 head in mid-July at Ouyen, which averaged about $135.
“The prices at the moment have just been fantastic,” he said.