SRS top success on Corona
WHILE many growers are jumping out wool into crossbreds for prime lambs, loyalists have concentrated on getting better at their job.
And Peter Botten and his wife Tracey, Corona Station, via Broken Hill, are a perfect example, introducing Soft Rolling Skin sheep four years ago in their bid to improve wool quality. And Peter thinks they have achieved that goal, with March shorn wool up $200 a bale on last year.
"This year is probably our best year so far as wool goes, and it's got to get better from now on if mother nature looks after us," he said.
The 52,000-hectare Corona can carry 13,000 sheep, but is down to 6500. During the 2002 drought, the flock fell as low as 3000.
"It has been 10 years since we had 13,000 sheep on the property," said Peter, who was introduced to SRS wool through friend Miles Cockington, Redcliffe Station, east of Burra, and started in this new direction with neighbours Mark Lacey and Jim Hall.
Miles conducted a workshop at Corona to give them a good introduction, focusing on how to achieve improved wool by classing the right way. They also attended a couple of workshops with Graham Brown, Reola Station, White Cliffs, to get some hands-on experience. They concentrated on identifying different types of wool for strength, brightness and softness. After a few courses Peter felt he had a good grasp of the concept, and bought a few sheep to start the breeding process.
On Corona they classed the sheep and matched them according to their wool type for mating. In their first year Corona artificially inseminated 400 ewes, which Peter says was a lot of work.
But Mother Nature was unfortunately not on their side, and poor seasonal conditions contributed to just a 30 per cent success rate.
They had backup rams, but the problem was that they were not selectively mated, so the right rams were not servicing the right ewes. Since then they have been using their tagging system and concentrating on mating the opposite rams to the opposite ewes to produce optimum results.
Sheep are classed and black and green tags used to identify flat and tight wooled animals, to make it easier to mate opposite rams to ewes.
After four years Peter says they are now getting to the stage where enough rams have been selected so that they have the right rams for all their ewes.
"It has taken four years, and we are still only half-stocked," he said.
"If the seasons were good we could have done it quicker."
But at least they now have built up a good base, the right platform to rebuild using the right stock when the season turns.
"We got $200 a bale more, so it is worth doing," Peter said.
"Every dollar is worth a dollar.
"If we can cover our costs and get a few dollars in the bank that's pretty good." A key to success is that water has never been a big issue at Corona, because it has plenty of backup with seven underground bores and eight dams. "If you haven't got water, you haven't got anything," Peter said.
Making best use of water is critical to their survival, and they push water through watercourses and create banks to manage it well. "We have always had water, right through the drought," Peter said.
"We just use all of our country all the time and lightly stock it," he said. "If there's feed in there, I'll put stock on it."
He does not see any value in keeping stock off some areas, and anyway, plants that are not grazed do not hang on. Corona has a mixture of flat, range and limestone country, which provides a good mix for different purposes.
"The limestone country is not great for wool, but its good for lambing," Peter said. He looks forward to maximising options when they get a good break.