Sheep on the range

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Melissa Wil­liams

Jin­dong farm­ers James and Katie Tay­lor, with their daugh­ter Frankie, 2, have a busi­ness model based on free-range pas­ture graz­ing. While pork used to be their farm­ing main­stay, they re­cently halved sow num­bers to in­stead fo­cus on build­ing up a sheep flock based on the ge­net­ics of Merino and Charol­lais — an English meat breed.

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 near Bus­sel­ton, have halved sow num­bers and are re­plac­ing a Dor­per and Da­ma­racross 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.

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 Farm­ers’ 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 com­ing onto the WA mar­ket.

“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.”

Mr Tay­lor said sheep were a rel­a­tively 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 had the added ben­e­fit of be­ing less in­ten­sive to man­age than the 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. “Lamb prog­eny are fast grow­ing, pro­duce a high-qual­ity car­case and have white downs wool,” Mr Tay­lor said. “We ex­pect to have our first lambs on the ground by mid-next year.”

Pic­ture: Taelor Pelusey

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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