THE key to producing award-winning hoggets comes down to good feed and ram selection, according to Eyre Peninsula farmer Shaun Freeman.
His farming practices aid early growth in a bid to develop a bold-crimp, fine-micron wool that often catches the classer’s and judge’s eye.
“My ewe lambs get the best feed from my farm for their first 12 months,” Mr Freeman said.
“It helps with their early growth and gives them a good start in life so they turn into nice, big sheep.”
Mr Freeman and his wife Bec farm 3800 hectares, 13 kilometres east of Penong.
Half of the land is used for wheat, with an additional 400ha used for oats for sheep feed.
The oats are fed on the ground or in a feeder, and usually Mr Freeman feeds them in addition to what grasses are available in the paddock.
The Freemans run about 1200 self-replacing breeding ewes, 800 of which are put to Merino rams and 400 are crossbreds that go to Suffolk rams.
My ewe lambs get the best feed from my farm for their first 12 months.
Mr Freeman buys his Merino rams through Lucernbrae stud, Callington, and Borung stud, Waikerie, with the guidance of Merino sheep classing consultant Bill Walker.
With Mr Walker’s assistance, Mr Freeman has developed a “straight sheep” that is easy to shear and has plenty of fine quality wool – a trait that was highly regarded at the Charra Ag Bureau’s hogget competition earlier this year.
“These rams seem to do quite well in the conditions on the EP and seem to adapt well,” Mr Freeman said.
“It’s pretty tough conditions and we don’t get a great deal of rain, but each year when I bring them back in they don’t go backwards and seem to do OK.
Mr Freeman aims for the lambs to drop in August and September and has a lambing percentage of more than 100 per cent.
The lambs and hoggets have a fleece measuring about 17M while the older sheep have microns in the low 20s.
His crossbred and wether lambs are sold in December so Mr Freeman can concentrate on his ewes.
“The crossbred lambs are bred from Merinos that the wool is not quite there,” he said.
“Nowadays the Merino sheep are a lot bigger and heavier and they’re getting more meat on them, but the wool is still there.”
While the EP has had a challenging season, Mr Freeman said his sheep were going well.
“This season has been patchy and we’re starting to struggle for sheep feed, but as soon as we start reaping and get a few stubble paddocks we’ll be right for a while,” he said.
“But I’ve been feeding hay and oats for the past two months to keep the ewes and lambs in good condition.”
MICRON, WEIGHT CONTRIBUTE TO HOGGET VICTORY
FOR the past three years, Shaun Freeman, Penong, has had the bragging rights as having the best hoggets in the Charra Ag Bureau.
His selection of three once again claimed top honours at the annual hogget competition earlier this year, narrowly winning by $9.24.
The results are comprised of fleece weight and measurements from all three sheep, which are then classed and given a dollar figure.
The sheep are then weighed and given a second value by the livestock agent judging on the day, before combining the two figures for an overall value.
Despite his third consecutive win, Mr Freeman said the competition was becoming stronger, with only a few dollars separating the entrants.
“There’s a bit of banter that goes on, but I only just won it this year with most people on the mark or pretty close,” he said.
Mr Freeman’s 10-month-old hoggets recorded micron measurements of 18.8M, and 17.5 twice, and bodyweights of 58 kilograms, 60.6kg and 55.5kg respectively, finishing with a total value of $761.
“When you select your sheep, you’re only having a guess at the micron, and if you’ve got a bit of weight you’re in with a chance,” he said.
In 2001 the Charra Ag Bureau introduced an under 12 months and over 12 months category, and in 2006 it introduced the meat judging component but in 2016 the age groups were dropped.