Benham backs breed.
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