PARRAKIE sheep producers Anthony and Jayne Gregurke have been rewarded for getting good size and weight into their young ewes, topping the Naracoorte first-cross ewe lamb sale earlier this month.
The Gregurkes sold 124 October-shorn, Lowan Hill/Dalveen-blood, March/April-drops at $320 to return buyer Ray Brook, Hamilton, Vic, while a second pen of 152 made $262.
“We’ve sold at Naracoorte since 1995, and we have been in the top two or three many times, but we have never hit $300 before or topped the sale,” Mr Gregurke said.
“Buyers wanted ewe lambs that could mate immediately and our pens were well grown for their age.”
But while the top price was pleasing, Mr Gregurke said they took pride in getting a really good average, selling 276 averaging $288.
“The Naracoorte sale is actually late for us, after the finish of the season, so we have to use grain to get that size the buyers require,” he said.
The Gregurkes also sold cull Merino ewe hoggets for $255 at the Lameroo off-shears sale in October, while their April/May-drop woolly wether lambs averaged $115 at Murray Bridge in September.
These outstanding returns have prompted the Gregurkes, including Anthony’s parents Leith and Kathleen Gregurke, to recently change their focus from a continuous cropping operation, to ley farming with 2100 self-replacing Merino breeding ewes on 2800 hectares in the southern Mallee.
“We used to grow 1200ha of wheat, canola and legumes, but we were going backwards with several dry years and frosts,” Mr Gregurke said. “Sheep kept paying the bills so we decided to grow crops that enhanced sheep grazing.”
About 900ha is cropped to Compass and Scope barley and milling oats, while 200ha is sown to feed, generally a vetch mix, some of which is cut for hay for stock and some for finishing sheep on.
Another 160ha is dryland lucerne, while 400ha is veldt grass and the rest annual clovers and grasses.
The Border Leicester first-cross ewe lambs and wethers were put on lucerne before the sales to finish, while the Merino lambs were weaned onto sown feed.
Mr Gregurke said they aimed to allocate 2.5 lambing ewes per hectare of cereal stubble.
“The 900ha is not continuously cropped, with cereals sown into pasture,” he said.
“But with the way this year has been, all the cereals will probably get resown back into the same paddock because of failed crops.”
Mr Gregurke said last week’s 20 millimetres of rain had halted a disappointing start to harvest.
“We were on Compass barley at Wilkawatt and it was going about 0.5t/ha,” he said. “That area has only had 165mm of growing season rainfall. We have better paddocks, but this was the only ripe one.”
Their country south of Parrakie, which has had 200mm GSR, is expected to yield up to 2t/ha.
“Our biggest issue this season, apart from low rainfall, was the wind, causing drift and dry conditions,” he said.
Mrs Gregurke said they would have to supplementary feed throughout the year.
“We will have to keep more grain and hay this year as supplementary feeding will start earlier due to lighter stubbles and pasture paddocks being down from a poor spring,” she said.
“This recent rain will be good for our feed paddocks to recover, but it also means more summer weed spraying.’
The Gregurke’s self-replacing breeding ewes are Dalveen-bloods.
Mrs Gregurke said they liked the Woodchester stud because it was based on Moorundie Park bloodlines, with good size, frame and commercial wool.
Of the 2100 ewes, 500 aged ewes, 4.5-year-olds, are mated to locally-bred Lowan Hill Border Leicester rams.
The Gregurkes chose Lowan Hill, Parilla, as they were based on Jonos and Glen Corrie bloodlines.
“Our lambing percentages have increased considerably since changing to local rams – from the 90s to 115 per cent for our first-crosses,” Mrs Gregurke said. “Our Merino percentage is 110-115pc.”
Shearing is August to September, with the wool sold in October and November, making up to 1410 cents a kilogram.