Paddocks heavily affected by ryegrass have become a crucial part of the Molineuxs nutrition management plan for the Merino lambs in their mixed farming operation.
To help boost lamb size, Jamie Molineux and his father Wayne, wean lambs onto pastures in October, but to increase the benefits of a mixed farming system, they graze lambs on bean stubble for additional protein.
“It is especially important at the end of the growing stage because it really helps to finish the lambs off to the higher weights we want to reach,” Jamie said. “Lambs also graze our most ryegrass-affected cropping paddock because it knocks down weeds in-crop too.”
The Molineuxs run 2700 Merino breeding ewes at Tarlee in the Mid North and Jabuk in the Mallee alongside 1225 hectares of cropping, and which Jamie says “has its challenges”.
“We try to work it so the demanding parts of the sheep operation are not in full-swing while we are flat out seeding or harvesting,” he said.
“It doesn’t always happen that way though, because the seasons continue to change, but it seems to work well most years.”
Having the option of two income streams is also a benefit of a mixed farming operation, Jamie says, because if “grain prices back off”, the sheep and wool markets provide a steady income to fall back on.
“Prices for sheep are unbelievably good at the moment,” Jamie said.
“While prices for other commodities have dipped up and down, the wool and meat returns have stayed steady for the past couple of seasons.”
The Molineuxs have sourced rams from the Rowett family at Mernowie Poll Merino stud, Marrabel, and more recently used genetics from Nyowee Poll Merino Stud, Balaklava.
Jamie said Mernowie rams had helped to produce fast-growing and well-covered offspring for the prime lamb market.
“We want to breed a balanced lamb with high-quality meat and wool,” he said.
About 1200 of the family’s Merino ewes are joined to a Merino ram in February for eight weeks while 1500 are mated to Poll Dorset rams to produce crossbred lambs.
Six hundred Merino wether lambs and 1500 crossbred lambs, aged from six to 10 months and weighing about 20-25 kilograms dressed-weight, are sold annually to the abattoir at Lobethal.
“We sell lambs from December until May and the most recent return was $6 a kilogram,” Jamie said.
Wool prices have also provided a profitable boost, while the Molineuxs have two shearings across the two farms, with grass seed management a main driver for timing.
“Tarlee ewes are shorn in January because paddocks are available and it keeps wool free from grass seeds,” Jamie said.
FEED RATIONS BOOM WITH NO RAIN IN SIGHT
THE late and dry start to the season has led the Molinuex family to double its nutrition rations for their 2700-head self-replacing Merino flock.
In past seasons, summer rainfall has provided beneficial weeds for the sheep to graze but this year, hay and barley are the only feed available.
Tarlee producer Jamie Molinuex said because wheat stubble continued to remain bare without summer weeds, he had no choice but to source additional nutrition to help maintain the flock’s condition.
Because sheep are grazed at Tarlee and Jabuk, Mr Molinuex said it could be time consuming to travel to each property to feed the sheep, but with a dry start he had no choice.
“We would normally feed a bit extra at this time of the year but, in comparison with last season, we have doubled what we would usually feed,” he said.
“It is a big win having the hay on-hand because it has become a bit sparse at the moment with everyone trying to feed stock.
“It is worth feeding because of the return the sheep job is offering at the moment, but not everyone is as lucky to have the feed on-hand.”
In a “normal season”, the Molinuexs use 1215 hectares of cropping stubbles to provide nutrition.
“A lot of growers would spray paddocks but in a mixed farming operation it is easier to use it as a nutrition source, rather than grain,” Mr Molinuex said.