Sheep shift

Pig num­bers chopped back

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - Melissa Wil­liams

Tough times in the pork in­dus­try have spurred South West farm­ers James and Katie Tay­lor to shift their sheep en­ter­prise into higher gear.

The Tay­lors, who farm at Jin­dong, have halved sow num­bers and are re­plac­ing a Dor­per and Da­mara-cross sheep flock to one based on Merino and Charol­lais ge­net­ics.

This will in­crease the pro­duc­tion of prime lambs and wool and has come in re­sponse to mar­ket sig­nals and a need to di­ver­sify their busi­ness, based near Mar­garet River.

Mr Tay­lor is the fifth gen­er­a­tion of his fam­ily to farm in the South West and, with Ms Tay­lor, set up Jin­dong Free Range Pork in 2010.

Their ethos has been “far­row to feast” and the pro­duc­tion sys­tem is based on free-range pas­ture graz­ing for stock and con­trol of their sup­ply chain.

Although a rel­a­tively small op­er­a­tion, cov­er­ing 20ha and some leased land, the Tay­lors are de­vel­op­ing good brand recog­ni­tion through di­rect sales of fresh and value-added pork and more re­cently lamb.

Tar­get mar­kets in­clude lo­cal and Perth res­tau­rants and di­rect on­line con­sumer sales driven by so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing and a pres­ence at the Mar­garet River Farmer’s Mar­ket.

They also have a mo­bile food van for cater­ing, us­ing their own meat and other lo­cally sourced sea­sonal fresh pro­duce.

Mr Tay­lor said at peak pork pro­duc­tion, they were run­ning about 30 sows and 250-300 grow­ers. But he said this had re­cently been cut to about 12 sows, mainly due to the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with a flood of cheap pork.

“We are still butcher­ing about four or five pig car­cases each week and pro­cess­ing these to a range of fresh meat cuts, chorizo and sausages,” he said.

“We use a con­tract butcher who is also a friend, a chef and has a bon­ing fa­cil­ity.”

Get­ting con­trol of the butcher­ing of our live­stock was the fi­nal key to the suc­cess of our busi­ness model, al­low­ing us to con­cen­trate on di­rect sales of value-added meat cuts and build­ing a brand rep­u­ta­tion for sup­ply­ing qual­ity prod­ucts.”

“We would lose about 25-30 per cent of our re­turns if we used the tra­di­tional live­stock sell­ing sys­tems due to our small scale and the free-range na­ture of our pro­duc­tion sys­tem that leads to slower an­i­mal growth.”

Mr Tay­lor said sheep were a new as­pect of the busi­ness and ini­tially sourced to help clean up weeds on a block that had been cleared of blue gums.

He said the re­cent slump in the pork mar­ket and a kick in wool prices had prompted the ramp­ing up of the sheep op­er­a­tion, which were less in­ten­sive to man­age than pigs.

The Tay­lors are now sell­ing down their Dor­per-cross flock and re­plac­ing it with Merino ewes that will be mated to a Charol­lais sire this year.

“The Charol­lais is an English meat sheep breed known for its high meat-to-bone ra­tio, ex­cel­lent con­ver­sion rates and high pro­por­tion of pri­mal cuts and in­tra­mus­cu­lar fat for great eat­ing qual­ity,” Mr Tay­lor said.

Pic­ture: Taelor Pelusey

James, daugh­ter Frankie, 2, and Katie Tay­lor, with pet lamb Baabaa, are fo­cus­ing on lamb pro­duc­tion on their Jin­dong prop­erty.

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