A PHILOSOPHY of not doing things by halves has led to Geranium Merino breeders Richard and Penny Howard, Annerley Props, being rewarded with Elders' Supreme Clip of the Year.
Their 82-bale clip branded Howvern - which was also the monthly winner for April - took out the title from more than 1100 clients that offered wool in the Melbourne auctions during the 2019-20 financial year.
Elders SA wool sales manager David Fogg said the Mallee clip stood out to the buyers on the showfloor visually and was backed with excellent test results.
It had a high staple tensile strength of 45.6 Newtons per kilotex and low mid break of 29.9 per cent.
Elders Mallee, Riverland and Upper South East district wool manager Trevor Smith also paid tribute to the high quality of the Howvern clip.
"It is not complicated wool - it is bright and it's white, fills the bale up and has a bit of style about it," he said.
Mr Howard said it was "pretty humbling" to receive the top accolade, after being a weekly winner the previous year.
It has reaffirmed his decision to shear every eight months, not 12.
"A few weeks ago I was wondering whether we were doing the right thing, given wool prices are down and shearing costs are up and the shortage of shearers, but discussing it with Trevor reassured me the length was the right thing," he said.
"Then I got the call we'd won."
Mr Howard attributed their success to their shearing schedule, along with good bloodlines and focus on pastures.
Annerley Props' self-replacing flock of about 1500 Merino ewes, plus another 200 to 300 Merinos mated to White Suffolks, is run in conjunction with their cropping program.
Mr Howard receives fantastic support from Brenton Temby and Will Barrett, along with his 85-year-old father Peter who is always keen to help.
He says there are compromises to be made when running sheep with cropping, but is pleased they have stuck with livestock, especially in their frost-prone area.
The Mallee producers switched to shearing every eight months in 2011, initially to boost their cash flow, but later realising it better met the 80-millimetre optimal staple length the trade was after.
The decision has also helped with their lambing percentages, especially every second year when they shear in mid February-March and lamb six weeks off-shears.
"We were August shearers and lambing with quite a bit of wool and if it got wet or they got down, there was so much more weight for them to get up, so it does work better," he said.
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Mr Howard is particularly proud the sheep in the winning clip were all their own breeding, with the only disappointment the price, not selling all the last of the lines until nearly the July recess.
"The week the wool was first up was the week COVID-19 really hit and the market dropped more than a dollar (a kilogram)," he said.
Annerley Props has been sourcing rams from the Davidson family's Moorundie Park stud, Gulnare, for nearly 25 years.
Their hoggets have been classed for more than 30 years by Moorundie Park classer Philip Venning.
If you're on a good thing, you stick to it - food and fibre, they are doing me well.
"We like Moorundie Park's style of sheep - good framed, carcase sheep, as well as nice, bright, stylish wool," Mr Howard said.
"If you're on a good thing, you stick to it - food and fibre, they are doing me well."
Vetch-canola and vetch-cereal annual pastures are an integral part of Annerley Props cropping rotation and in recent years they have also sown more lucerne and veldt grass.
Another recent addition has been 4-5 hectare plots of saltbush, which help fill in feed gaps during the year.
These have been established on unproductive areas of the property, such as the top of sandy hills.
"It has involved a lot of fencing and watering, but these areas weren't growing good crops even though we had tried over the years," he said.
Wether lambs are usually sold on-the-hook at 22-23kg carcase weight from the end of September.
But after moving the April lambing forward to May, Mr Howard expects to hold them until into the New Year to hit similar weights.
"The break was getting later and we were doing lots of hand feeding in April, so we went out a month, but this year was a text book start," he said.
"We had a break of the season around Anzac Day and the feed grew with the lambs."
Annerley Props is a regular seller at the Lameroo off-shears sale and in 2018 was rewarded with the blue ribbon, best-presented pen.
They have 200, 1.5-year-old ewes earmarked for this year's sale on October 9.
ELDERS 2019-2020 MONTHLY WINNERS
- July: JAS Mosey & Co, Robertstown (Fingerpost)
- August: Westover Holdings, Iron Knob (Gilles Downs)
- September: Kootaberra, Port Augusta (Kootaberra)
- October: Cooyerdoo Station, Iron Knob (Cooyerdoo)
- November: Binnumbrook, Geranium (Binnumbrook)
- December: Thistlebeds, Burra (Old Kelvale)
- January: JR&AM Morgan, Olary (Outalpa)
- February: Yudnappina Station, Port Augusta (Yudnappina)
- March: Mulgathing, Glendambo (Jumbuck/Mulgathing/Pastoral)
- April: Annerley Props, Geranium (Howvern)
- May: Collinsville Stud Merinos, Hallett (Collinsville)
- June: SP&SM Mannion, White Cliffs, NSW (MB/Oakvale)
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