FINDING time to run two properties - a suffolk stud and a branded-lamb business - may sound like a difficult task, but for Garry and Pauline Gum the juggling act is all about optimising their potential returns.
They run Wattle Wood Springs Suffolk Stud and Yankaponga Lamb from their farm between Myponga and Yankalilla on Fleurieu Peninsula.
When establishing the Suffolk stud in 2006, Garry wanted to include rams from diverse genetic backgrounds. Rams and ewes were bought from Broughton Lodge stud, Crystal Brook, and more ewes were bought from Pine Ridge stud, Strathalbyn. The stud was then bolstered with ewes from Curlew Valley on Kangaroo Island and a ram from Allendale stud, Bordertown.
Garry has separated the stud flock into four family groups, with the rams used once in a family group and then rotated to a different group the following year to maintain the large gene pool.
"We've got about 120 ewes in the stud, and it varies from about 15 to 30 ewes in each family group," Garry said.
"The best ewes go back into the family they were born to, while we keep rotating the rams and buy a good ram nearly every year."
Most stud rams are sold by appointment, with the family also holding an on-farm ram sale last year.
Suffolks were selected for their hardy nature, even in tough conditions. Garry says the enjoyable flavour of the meat and their marbling also makes them an ideal breed.
He aims to have even-quality across all his stud rams without a big variance from the top to bottom, and to raise animals that are strong performers in all conditions.
"We want the stud ewes to be real 'doers', so I don't supplement them until about now and that's just when they're mated," he said. "They've still got to have good feet and legs, but if they haven't come up over summer, they're the ones I don't want to keep."
When supplementary feeding is introduced, sheep are fed a combination of oat and vetch hay, barley and lupins.
The high rainfall at Myponga - where Garry and Pauline own 90 hectares and lease another 200ha - means pastures grow well.
They also own land at Booleroo Centre and Hammond in the Upper North, where Garry's family has farmed for three generations. Having the two properties has been a big advantage when running stock.
"We run stock here at Myponga in the winter quite heavily, then in the summer we can take them up to our stubbles in the marginal country," Garry said. "We run up to about 2000 ewes all-up that will produce a replacement Merino flock and also we breed a few first-cross ewes from that.
"Our replacement flock is bred up north as well."
Running Merino sheep also delivers a cashflow boost from wool sales - an important backup if lamb prices slide.
Although the stud and branded-lamb enterprises are mostly run on a separate basis, excess stud stock is utilised in the branded-lamb business.
"Basically anything that doesn't make it into our stud will go back through the lamb business, but we also breed rams to go over Merinos or first-cross ewes as well," he said. "That's where we get the majority of our lambs from."
The Yankaponga Lamb brand was launched about four years ago, with the family now selling their processed lamb cuts online through First Froots Online Grocery, in-store at Normanville Meat and Seafood, and direct to the public at Willunga Farmers Market each Saturday.
Garry and Pauline's daughter Courtney encouraged her parents to establish the branded business.
"Courtney was the one who pushed it," Pauline said. "We'd always thought about it but she got it all up and running and organised the labels and the butchers, and we just ran with it."
The couple's sons Josh and Tristan have been helping out at the farmers market and completing deliveries, while Josh's fiancé Lisa manages the Yankaponga Lamb Facebook page.
The Yankaponga business is quite labour-intensive, requiring regular input at all times of the year.
"It probably takes three days of the week," Garry said. "Monday you're weighing and sorting sheep and taking them to the abattoir, then Fridays we do the deliveries to the outlets and pick up our stock for the market. On Saturdays we put in a full day at the market."
Garry enjoys hearing feedback straight from the consumer.
"Each week we get a good comment, which is really nice," he said. "It's enjoyable to have contact right through to the end-user. I think people are after that traceability - they want to know where it's grown."
*Full report in Stock Journal, March 21 issue, 2013.