Focus switches to dual-purpose Merinos

Focus switches to dual-purpose Merinos

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DUAL DESIRE: Kristy and Craig Pietsch, Pietsch Rural, Western Flat, are looking to build a dual-purpose, self-replacing Merino flock.

DUAL DESIRE: Kristy and Craig Pietsch, Pietsch Rural, Western Flat, are looking to build a dual-purpose, self-replacing Merino flock.

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Second-cross lamb production has always been the focus for Western Flat's Craig and Kristy Pietsch, Pietsch Rural, but in the past 12 months, the pair have decided to "simplify" their business, shifting towards producing dual-purpose Merinos.

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Second-cross lamb production has always been the focus for Western Flat's Craig and Kristy Pietsch, Pietsch Rural, but in the past 12 months, the pair have decided to "simplify" their business, shifting towards producing dual-purpose Merinos.

For now, crossbreds remain part of the enterprise, with SAMM-Merino ewes joined to Border Leicesters to create first-cross ewes, which are then mated to White Suffolk rams for the second-cross.

About 1300 first-cross ewes ranging from 2.5 to six years old were joined to Border Leicesters in January/February, with as 1200 Merino ewes, ranging from three to six years old, joined to Merino rams at the same time.

But the Merinos are the focus looking ahead, according to Mr Pietsch.

"We're trying to simplify things a bit, going forward we'll look to breed self-replacing pure Merinos, and anything we don't need to self-replace we'll put a White Suffolk over the top," he said.

The Pietschs have sourced rams from a few studs in NSW and SA, and are still on the lookout for new bloodlines to fit their requirements.

"It's complicated trying to find the right Merino, traditionally Merinos have been 'wool, wool, wool', with carcase and fertility and growth rate seen as extras, but we're looking to do the opposite," Mr Pietsch said.

"We've spoken to a lot of studs in the last 12 months, yes they still have their wool focus and are looking at dual-purpose, but there are very few studs there that can offer a very genuine dual-purpose Merino ram - they are few and far between."

We're trying to put the whole package together, of still being able to turn off some good prime lambs, but having the wool paying its way as well. - CRAIG PIETSCH

Mr Pietsch said the dual-purpose nature of SAMMs was "OK", but the sheep were "too big", requiring a lot of feed and also causing problems at shearing.

"We've refocused our breeding objective, even though the wool job has gone south, we hope that when COVID-19 settles down and things go back to normality, we'll have a wool cheque that'll be worth something," he said.

"We're trying to put the whole package together, of still being able to turn off some good prime lambs, but having the wool paying its way as well.

"I'd rather be breeding our own ewes and selling surplus instead of paying exorbitant prices to restock our ewes."

Mr Pietsch aims to get a base Merino flock going using 600 Merino ewe lambs from this year's June/July lambing, which will be joined within the first 12 months of their lives. The remaining Merino lambs will be sold off to local meatworks, along with all crossbred lambs.

"In the past we've been able to sell our crossbred lambs in October, aiming for a 50-kilogram liveweight. We lambed slightly later this year, so hopefully we can (sell off) most of the crossbreds before Christmas, and then the Merinos in the new year," he said.

'BEST EVER' LAMBING FOR PIETSCH PAIR

IN THE midst of switching focus from crossbred lamb production to quality dual-purpose Merinos, Western Flat's Craig and Kristy Pietsch have experienced their "best ever lambing" season, in a year where they dabbled with a few changes.

For the first time, the pair pushed their lambing period back slightly, from a May/June lambing to a June/July lambing, to avoid a clash with seeding their 500-hectare cropping program, comprised of canola, wheat, barley and beans.

"When the nutrition with our ewes started ramping up, that's when we were trying to get the crops in, so by moving it later by a month we're trying to spread our workload, and get the most out of the labour units we've got," Mr Pietsch said.

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The overall lambing percentage for the crossbred ewes was 166 per cent, while the Merinos averaged 137pc.

Mr Pietsch said the use of mature ewes had likely contributed to the good figures.

"Maiden ewes generally have lower conception rates, and this year we had more mature Merinos and crossbreds, and no maidens."

With increased attention paid to ewe nutrition, and single and twin ewes kept in separate, smaller mobs to match paddock feed availability, Mr Pietsch said there had been "a lot of tweaking", which likely contributed to the excellent lambing result.

He said the "kind season" this year had also helped.

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