Farmer braces for fu­ture

Kulin sheep farmer Bryn Davies is weigh­ing up his op­tions. With 1000 wethers to feed and lambs pegged to drop in com­ing months, a halt in live ex­ports has caused big prob­lems for his farm pro­gram.

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Pic­ture: Cally Dupe

It’s a trou­bling time for Kulin sheep farmer Bryn Davies.

Like many WA sheep farm­ers, a halt in live ex­ports has put his farm man­age­ment pro­gram out of whack and left a big ques­tion mark over the fu­ture prof­itabil­ity of his op­er­a­tion.

With 1000 wethers in limbo and lambs pegged to drop in Au­gust and Septem­ber, his mixed farm does not have enough green feed to go around.

Un­til re­cently, Mr Davies and his wife Ta­tiana were dish­ing out $7500 a week in sheep feed. June rain­fall meant the pair could drop back to twice­weekly feeds, cost­ing about $1000 a week.

Hold­ing on to his wethers will have a flow-on ef­fect, with no cer­tainty about what prices will be like when — or if — live ex­port ship­ping re­sumes later this year.

“The big­gest prob­lem is the pad­docks with wethers are ear­marked for lambs in seven or eight weeks time,” Mr Davies said.

“Nor­mally, I’d have sold the wethers by now to give the pad­docks some time to get away for the lambs.

“If I can’t get rid of those sheep, it means the lambs will not get the op­ti­mal start they re­ally need. It’s a flow-on ef­fect.”

Mr Davies is just one of many WA farm­ers weigh­ing up their op­tions fol­low­ing a halt in live ex­ports after the li­cence of the State’s big­gest player, Emanuel Ex­ports, was sus­pended.

He is now in talks with his sheep buyer about what prices he could get for his wethers through lo­cal abat­toirs, and whether sell­ing lo­cally would be worth it given his ex­pen­sive feed bur­den.

“If this had hap­pened ear­lier, say in Novem­ber or even Jan­uary, I could have sold th­ese wethers as lambs,” Mr Davies said. “This de­ci­sion should have been thought out. This is no dif­fer­ent to the cat­tle ban in 2011. Farm­ers have been left to carry the load.”

WA Agri­cul­ture and Food Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan met with pro­cessed meat im­porters in Qatar last week to dis­cuss ex­port op­tions for WA-pro­duced pro­cessed meat.

“Around 300,000 sheep were des­tined for live ex­port over the high sum­mer months,” she said. “It is vi­tal we work closely with in­dus­try to find the short and long-term so­lu­tions to deal with the ex­pected re­duc­tion in the live sheep trade.

“The Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment is tak­ing steps to give sheep pro­duc­ers the sup­port they need to ad­just to this new en­vi­ron­ment.”

If I can’t get rid of those sheep, the lambs will not get the op­ti­mal start they need. Bryn Davies

Pic­ture: Cally Dupe

Kulin sheep farmer Bryn Davies with his daugh­ters Milla, 4, and Freyja, 5.

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