Kingscote flock bounces back after fires

Kingscote flock bounces back after fires


Andrew and Bec Bennett are breeding fast-growing lambs and sought-after replacement ewes in their commercial operation near Kingscote on KI.


KANGAROO Island lamb producers Andrew and Bec Bennett are breeding fast-growing lambs and sought-after replacement ewes in their commercial operation near Kingscote.

White Suffolk rams are used as terminal sires in their commercial operation, joined to more than 3000 crossbred SAMM/Multimeat ewes, and they are allowing the Bennetts to sell lambs off grass, with minimal inputs.

Pastures are predominantly clover and ryegrass and the entire property is fertilised and sprayed every year, Mr Bennett said.

"A lot of people don't use chemicals but I spray my whole property each year for broadleaf weeds so the sheep are not eating capeweed."

Lambs have no trouble hitting on-hook specifications, with the Bennetts aiming for a carcase weight of 24 kilograms to 28kg.

"We lamb down in mid-June and they're gone by the third week in November," he said.

As the Bennetts also run two stud enterprises, Bark Hut White Suffolks and Composites, the commercial operation needs to be as simple as possible.

"Our goal is to get rid of lambs as quickly as possible, straight off pasture," Mr Bennett said.

"The bulk of the lambs have no trouble finishing off grass and we lock in a third of our drop over the hook.

"The ewe lambs are mated a month later, so anything out of them and any of the late lambs from the older ewes go as stores."

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There's also regular demand for the ewe portion as replacement ewes.

"Using White Suffolks gives us the flexibility to sell ewe lambs to restockers, instead of just being a terminal cross," Mr Bennett said.

"We have a couple of regular buyers who have bought the crossbred ewes for a long time and they love the cross, and because of our health status, they're quite confident in buying from us."

The flock's fertility has been increasing through the years, but this year's scanning has been exceptional, given the difficult start to the year, in which fire affected 90 per cent of the property, burning all shelter belts and 26 kilometres of fencing.

"This year we had 140pc at marking, a month after lambing, which was great, because we were worried, coming out of the fires, what the result would be," Mr Bennett said.

"We knew the fire was coming so we did some backburns to protect the sheep and had the whole lot yarded up.

"We assumed that with the stress we'd lose lambs but we came out of that with no side effects to lambing percentages."

Pasture is coming back, as the fire was so quick that it didn't burn deep into the soil, Mr Bennett said.

"We've had to replace all our fencing and we've fed out a lot of hay, but we didn't confinement feed, and we're pretty happy we didn't because any hiccup can be magnified.

"We just propped all the fences up with droppers and spread the sheep out, then spent whatever we could on feed to look after them."

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