GREG and Wendy Ryan are achieving whole-farm system balance with production of prime lambs and growing lucerne for the seed market in the medium rainfall zone near Bordertown.
The couple's 405-hectare property is split into 150ha of border-check (flood) irrigation area, 40ha of land irrigated under pivots and improved dryland pastures on remaining paddocks.
Growing lucerne on the irrigated areas, the Ryans are among the 250 seed suppliers for the national industry through the Australian Seed Authority certification program.
As well as providing the business with a diversified income stream to help manage risks, this perennial legume crop gives them another grazing option for their sheep flock.
The couple run about 1000 head of Merino ewes, half of which are mated to Merino sires for flock breeding replacements and the other half to Poll Dorset rams for prime lamb production.
Joining occurs in November for the Poll Dorsets, which come from the Allendale stud, and a month later for the pure Merinos - based on Andoma bloodlines. Conception rates average 100 per cent across the whole flock.
Mr Ryan said the system was designed so the ewes producing crossbred lambs could be grazed on high value lucerne paddocks during lambing and in winter.
Lambing starts in April for these first-cross mobs, then the pure Merinos in May and June.
Mr Ryan said the timing worked because lucerne seed crops were usually growing well at that time of year, after being harvested the previous year, irrigated and then watered from autumn rains.
"It means the crossbred lambs born on to the lucerne areas immediately get used to grazing this really high quality feed to kick-start their early growth," he said.
"And the ewes get optimum nutrition from the perennial crop during lactation and their recovery period - with no scouring.
"Mobs grazing the lucerne areas are split up and closely managed to ensure the perennial is not overgrazed, as we then harvest it later in the year for seed sale."
The Ryans sell the fastest growing Merino-Poll Dorset crossbred lambs in September when they hit target liveweights of about 40kg, to produce an 18 to 22kg carcase. Top lines often reach liveweights of about 50kg (24kg carcase weight).
"The aim is to hit the market early, before any late season cold snaps and to take advantage of price premiums available before the traditional spring 'flush' of lamb supplies," Mr Ryan said.
Each year the Ryans source Poll Dorset rams from the nearby Allendale stud, with a focus on early growth, weight and carcase quality traits.
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.