BUOYED by recent high wool prices and wanting to avoid expensive restocking, the Mosey family, via Robertstown, continue to do whatever it takes to maintain their Merino flock numbers.
The wool producers run up to 8000 ewes on properties in the Robertstown district and large tracks of pastoral country at nearby Florieton, where significant rains have been few and far between.
Fifth generation John Mosey, who farms with wife Sonya, son Jack and father John Snr, said the past two years had been the worst the family had ever experienced.
Their pastoral feed was lost to kangaroos by late autumn last year.
But the 2016 SA Elders Clip of the Year winners would not compromise on their flock numbers, figuring genetics would be more costly to buy back in the long run.
"The high wool prices are the only thing that has kept us alive," John said.
"Decisions to buy feed were made easy because you knew you would be getting paid well for your wool."
The drought did affect numbers in other ways though, with lambing percentages only 30 per cent last year, down from about 90pc.
"Of the few lambs we did get, we sold the complete pastoral drop as soon as we could," John said.
"We wanted to maintain our ewe flock on the little feed we had left."
We haven't had season-fixing rain since early 2017.
With the writing on the wall, the Moseys decided to not join their pastoral ewes - 80pc of their flock - this year.
"We haven't had season-fixing rain since early 2017," John said. "Even when we had 17 millimetres a few weeks ago, it had been so dry that there hasn't really been a germination from it.
"So the 20pc we did mate will be run at Robertstown."
John said strenuous feed management had enabled them to keep the flock in relatively good condition, evident in Melbourne recently when their 20 micron to 20.5M wool presented well.
Their wool had a staple length of 85mm, with a yield per cent in the high 60s and tensile strength of 45 Newtons/kilotex.
"Because of the drought our vegetable matter was substantially less at 1.52pc, when normally it can be up to 7VM," John said.
But the 170 bales offered was significantly less than the 300 bales sold last year.
"Our sheep would normally produce about six kilograms skirted wool a head, while this year we were under 3kg/hd," John said. "But we were glad the sheep's wool measurements were pretty much the same."
They received up to $13.35/kg greasy (up to $20/kg clean), which was significantly down on last year's high of $16.85/kg, but it all helped towards feed costs.
"We have had to buy in a lot of feed," John said.
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"It has got us through to now, but we will have to start destocking from our pastoral country soon because of the lack of rain."
A semi-load of pastoral ewes were put on agistment at Lochiel last week.
John said they still had a few weeks of feed left on-farm and would avoid selling sheep for as long as possible.
"The season will eventually turn around and when it does, replacement prices will go through the roof," he said.
"It gives us the confidence to stick with feeding because of the cost of buying them back will be astronomical."
John credits good genetics and a breeding focus on constitution for their Merinos handling the dry.
The Moseys have been using bloodlines from Greenfields stud, Hallett, for the past 15 years.
"If you compare the wool from two years ago when things were really good to now, when it's the worst it's ever been, nothing's really changed except the wool cut per head," he said.
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