HUMBLE Hynam lamb producers Peter and Ruth Gericke credit reliable rainfall, versatile soils and expert help as a few of the factors behind a decade of exceptional, and occasionally record-breaking, saleyard results.
In 2011, the Gerickes set a then-national lamb price record of $243.50 for 129 second-cross lambs at the Naracoorte saleyards.
Almost a decade later, the practice of joining Poll Dorset rams with a first-cross ewe and finishing the lambs on irrigated lucerne is still proving a winning formula for the Gerickes.
In May last year, they established a then-saleyard lamb record at the Naracoorte Regional Livestock Exchange, with $301 received for 83 June 2018-drop second-cross lambs.
They received $300 for another pen, sold to JBS Bordertown, at the same sale and the results followed $295.50 for 127 lambs earlier in the month.
Mr Gericke said they ran a 2000 head ewe flock - 1500 first-crosses and 500 Dohnes used to breed replacement crossbreds - as well as 70 Simmental-Angus beef cattle on their 660 hectares between Naracoorte and Hynam.
Irrigated lucerne is primarily used to finish lambs, but the Gerickes also sell lucerne seed.
Mr Gericke said lucerne had done a good job of getting lambs up to weight, with the flock moved between two irrigation circles.
In a first this summer, Mr Gericke had also put lambs on a maize stubble, saying they were doing well on the new feed source.
While the Gerickes have previously sold over-the-hooks, Mr Gericke said of late the majority had gone into the saleyards.
"Of late, the markets have been as good, or if not better, than anything else," he said.
"The lambs are usually May-drop and we generally sell in early November. The record-breakers were ones we'd held onto a bit longer.
"We've built the ewe numbers up so we sell around 2100 lambs a year now and of course we're keeping some as breeders.
"We had very good results last year. The tops of the 2019 lambs went for $230 and we averaged about $189, which was amazing for selling them straight off their mother - they would have been 26 kilograms or 27kg when sold."
Mr Gericke said they had been lucky to achieve great results, saying they'd often sold at times when there were lamb shortages.
He also credited expert help from Landmark agent Richard Jennings and an average rainfall of 500 millimetres to 550mm as factors behind their successful enterprise.
"We're just thankful to be in a good part of the country - God's blessed us here," Mr Gericke said. "We've had a string of good years when others have struggled."
VERSATILE SOILS AID FARM INCOME
WHILE sheep are the 'bread and butter' of the farming enterprise for Peter and Ruth Gericke, Hynam's "versatile soils" have allowed them to try incorporating other lines of income, including lucerne seed, beef cattle and sub-clover seed.
The Gericke family has owned land near Hynam since the mid-1950s, with an average rainfall of 500 millimetres to 550mm providing good growing conditions and underground water assisting them in the rare dry years.
While their property floods about once in every 10 years, Mr Gericke said only 350mm had fallen last year but all at optimal times.
"Having the underground water is a big help to our farm," he said.
"We can always grow something with that even when no one else can.
"It's also pretty versatile soil.
"With most of our soil you can either crop it or graze it, which enables you to do a variety of things so not all your eggs are in one basket.
"The sheep are the bread and butter but it's good to try a few other things like the lucerne seed, sub-clover seed and if they work out it's a bonus."
Underlining the soil's versatility was an experimental maize crop grown last year, with the stubble now utilised as a feed source.
"The maize crop didn't dry off in time and winter came, so it sat there all through the winter and we harvested it in the spring time," Mr Gericke said.
"I've got the lambs and cattle on that at the moment and there's quite a bit of residue on the ground, so after they clean that up I'll put them on the lucerne."
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