SANDILANDS youngster Edward Linke couldn't wait to finish high school to go farming, so in his final year of school, in 2017, he and father David bought a consignment of dairy bull calves "at a good price" to get his feet tentatively in the agriculture door.
They also built a feedlot on their Yorke Peninsula farm, where David had been running a prime lamb operation alongside a 1000-hectare cropping program.
"We fed up about 150 over 18 months and did really well out of it - it was a good experience getting into the beef industry," Edward said.
He said the modest venture was considered successful enough that they started looking for better beef calves.
"At the time, the northern areas were in drought, so hundreds of calves were being sent down," he said.
"So we started buying out of Dublin in 2017, and it's been all go since then.
"We started by backgrounding them in the paddocks then feedlotting them.
"We liked being able to background as it was lower risk, rather than buying them to go straight into the feedlot and possibly spending too much money on grain."
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Edward says they buy a "couple of hundred" calves each season out of Dublin, with about 350-400 cattle at the farm of various ages.
They generally buy in summer, background them on stubbles and pastures and then feedlot with grain and barley straw the following season.
The pasture paddock comprises 250ha of rockier ground nearby, not suitable for continuous cropping, which is sown with oats into regenerating medic pastures.
"It's where we finish both our lambs and calves off before they go into the feedlot," Edward said.
Earlier this year, the Linkes acquired a couple of hundred quality station-bred Angus and Simmental-cross calves.
Most of the steers were recently sold to Woolworths, making about $1800 a head.
"We seemed to have struck it at the right time for cattle," he said.
"It's a stark contrast to the sheep job, however. A couple of weeks ago we sold some beautiful, big Merino wether lambs, but prices had dropped significantly.
"Yet at the start of this season, we sold crossbred suckers at $185-plus, so there is a lot of ups and downs."
MOVE INTO MERINOS
ANOTHER major change has been a switch from prime lamb production to a self-replacing Merino flock.
Edward said they bought a Gum Hill-blood foundation mob a year ago, with the first lambs dropped in April/May.
"We had previously bought some wether lambs from Gum Hill to put into the feedlot, and they grew quicker than the crossbreds, and cut a beautiful white fleece, so we decided to stick with that bloodline," he said.
"Beforehand, we were running up to 1000 ewes bought from the market, either Poll Merinos, Dohnes or SAMMs. We would join them with a White Suffolk ram targeting the prime lamb market.
"But the wool wasn't good and the ewes were never special. And if you're feeding sheep, it should be good ones. The new mob are much stronger, better presented and the wool is more valuable."
The Linkes finished shearing their 450 Merino ewes and their lambs last week.
We clipped five kilograms from six months' growth, which we are very happy with.
"We clipped five kilograms from six months' growth, which we are very happy with," Edward said.
They shear every six months, with this the second shearing of the mob.
"We were shearing every 8-9 months, but it kept clashing with seeding, harvest or lambing," Edward said.
"With six months, you just do it twice a year, same time every year. They have no little lambs on them, they're fresh, no crutching - it's just good husbandry for the sheep."
Edward said "normal" wool prices, of about 1000 cents/kg-plus, made it worth the extra effort.
It is why they plan to hold the wool from this recent shearing until present prices improve.
"We last sold this time last year, receiving more than 1400c/kg," he said.
One positive from this season has been lambing percentages, an "excellent" 100 per cent, Edward said.
"We were especially pleased that it was about 70pc ewe lambs - couldn't have started any better trying to build our flock," he said.
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