SUFFOLK genetics are allowing Barry and Karen Hammat to finish lambs quickly, while managing the varying climate on Kangaroo Island.
The woolgrowers and lamb producers run about 3000 ewes and 1000 replacements on just under 700 hectares near Haines, about 20 kilometres south-west of Kingscote, with 1800 Gum Hill-blood Merinos and 1200 composites based on Chrome genetics, which are joined to Suffolk rams from Helen Schultz's Pine Ridge stud at Strathalbyn.
They've had Merinos for many years, but they're planning to transition to a completely composite flock, as they're easier to manage.
"The black hoof on the maternal ewe and our Suffolk terminal rams suits our country, and we're not in the wettest country, but the season can change quickly on the island," Mr Hammat said.
The Hammats are long-term Suffolk lamb producers.
"We've used some White Suffolks in the past, but we've always gone back to blacks, because they do a lot better here," Mr Hammat said.
Pine Ridge genetics have played a big role in the production, with the Hammats sourcing genetics from the SA stud for about 20 years, mostly by private selection.
"Because we've been loyal clients, Helen has given us the chance to select from the whole flock," Mrs Hammat said.
"We mainly select on structure, with a good hindquarter and a bit of length.
"That butt shape and loin is really important to get the weight into the lambs. Suffolks are renowned for slender shoulders for easy lambing, and Helen has a very uniform flock, with nice open heads, and they're all good, sound, well-structured rams."
The black hoof on the maternal ewe and our Suffolk terminal rams suits our country, and we're not in the wettest country, but the season can change quickly on the island.- BARRY HAMMAT
They've had strong lambing percentages, with averages around 135 per cent most years, and the best result - 150pc marked lambs - in their 2.5-year-old composite ewes this year.
"They were scanned as wet and dry, not in a twinning mob," he said.
"That's been with a very hard start, because it didn't rain here until the middle of June, but we've had nine inches of rain in the last six weeks.
"That's where the black hoof with the Suffolks, as well as the maternal ewes, comes into play - they're animals that can handle changes in weather."
Fertility has been an area of focus, with the composite ewes culled if empty, and they've trialled joining ewe lambs this year.
"We've been traditionally not mating ewe lambs - we'd usually leave them until 1.5 years - but we've changed that because the ewes were getting a little bit big," Mr Hammat said.
"For the first time, we've mated ewe lambs to Southdown rams for ease of lambing, and they scanned at 55pc, but we might weigh them next year to select the heavier ewes to join and get a better result. But we're still happy with that result, because it gets them into production earlier. "
The breed is also suited to the property's pasture mix, which is mainly native grasses with a sub clover base.
"Kangaroo Island does have oestrogenic clovers which can be a problem with fertility in ewes, but if you're breeding enough numbers and preg testing it overrides that.
"We're scanning wet and dry to make sure we can get rid of the unproductive ewes as quickly as possible."
It's a productive block, with generally reliable rainfall, and the low stocking rate means Mr Hammat can grow his lambs out to trade weights in most years. They're sold over-the-hooks to abattoirs at Murray Bridge and Bordertown on the mainland.
"The seasons have been pretty consistent for us in the past few years, and we've been getting them quite heavy, to 24 to 26 kilograms dressedweight, anything over 50kg liveweight."
Lambing is in June and July, and most of the lambs are sold by mid-November.
"Most of them will reach the target weight by mid-November, and the small percentage of later lambs that are small have been sold on AuctionsPlus," Mr Hammat said.
"The store job has been very strong because somewhere in Australia, somebody is having a good year, which creates demand for those lambs.
"We try to drop them on green feed and finish them right at the end of the green feed.
"The lamb operation fits well with the natural pasture curve, because by the time they're all sold the grass is haying off, and they also don't do as well with the grass seeds in summer."
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