Ben­ham backs breed.

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - CAITLYN BURLING Con­tin­ued page 13

WHEN the fig­ures started stack­ing up, North­ern Tas­ma­nian farmer Rob O’Con­nor fig­ured it was time to breed more Merino ewes.

Six years ago, after ex­ten­sive anal­y­sis of his mixed sheep en­ter­prise, Rob de­cided to side­line his cross­breed­ing pro­gram and shift his fo­cus back to re­fin­ing his Merino ge­net­ics and boost­ing his flock num­bers.

All the fig­ures and mar­ket in­di­ca­tors re­vealed a to­tal Merino op­er­a­tion as the most prof­itable sheep en­ter­prise for the O’Con­nor’s 3000 work­able hectares, Ben­ham near Avoca.

Even though the O’Con­nor fam­ily had al­ways run a Merino flock, ex­po­sure to a fluc­tu­at­ing wool mar­ket in the early 2000s and a con­strained wool en­ter­prise forced them to con­sider re­tain­ing cross­bred ewes to adapt and cope with the sit­u­a­tion at the time.

They be­gan pro­duc­ing a first-cross ewe flock, joined to a ter­mi­nal sire for prime lamb pro­duc­tion, while still main- tain­ing the best of their Merino ge­net­ics.

This set in mo­tion a strate­gic breed­ing plan to si­mul­ta­ne­ously move their Merino en­ter­prise in a new, more prof­itable di­rec­tion.

While the two flocks were both suc­cess­ful, Rob said run­ning the two ewe flocks on the same prop­erty cre­ated ex­tra com­pli­ca­tion and work­load for man­age­ment and staff.

So in 2012 he de­cided to re­run the fig­ures of the two op­er­a­tions and bench­mark them more closely against each other.

After com­par­ing the gross mar­gin per DSE of both en­ter­prises, along with key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors, they found that the en­ter­prises were sim­i­lar in terms of profitabil­ity.

It also be­came clear at that point in time, that they needed to con­sis­tently achieve above 150 per cent lamb­ing in the prime lamb en­ter­prise to be on par with their Merino wool op­er­a­tion.

“We were achiev­ing that 150 per cent lamb­ing, but we had to be per­form­ing at the top of our game to get there,” Rob said.

“Around that same time, we started to see the Merino ewe had greater po­ten­tial in our sit­u­a­tion. The Merino is more adapt­able to our coun­try and al­lows us to use the prop­erty more ef­fec­tively, and I al­ways thought we would go back to run­ning solely Merino ewes.

“Through keep­ing fig­ures and bench­mark­ing, we knew we could make some ad­just­ments and im­prove­ments with our Meri­nos to go well past the cross­breds in terms of profitabil­ity, with less over­all work through de-com­pli­cat­ing our sys­tem.

“Since then, we have slowly phased out the first cross ewes

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