Sheep a good fit in diversified SA farming system

Farming to the power of three

Sheep
NOT RISKY BUSINESS: Tom Hage, who farms with his wife Julia and parents Geoff and Robyn, says diversity is key in modern farming systems.

NOT RISKY BUSINESS: Tom Hage, who farms with his wife Julia and parents Geoff and Robyn, says diversity is key in modern farming systems.

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Sheep, cattle and crops are in the mix for the Hage family, near Naracoorte.

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Splitting enterprises into one third sheep, one third crop and one third cattle is ensuring a good risk profile for Naracoorte farmers Tom and Julia Hage.

The pair farm with Mr Hage's parents Geoff and Robyn, and the family has a Case IH machinery dealership off-farm to further boost its diversified business portfolio.

The Hages have 2500 Merino ewes mated to Border Leicesters from the Deepwater Stud, based at Binnum, they crop 600 hectares and there are 550 Angus breeding cows on their 2200ha landholding.

The family sells first cross Merino-Border Leicester ewe lambs to breeders and first cross wether lambs to processors.

Merino ewes are mated to Deepwater Stud sires in November.

They lamb in autumn and progeny is sold between October and February, depending on market conditions and opportunities.

NEXT GEN: Lauren, left, Ethan and Pippa Hage are at home in the sheep yards.

NEXT GEN: Lauren, left, Ethan and Pippa Hage are at home in the sheep yards.

Mr Hage said the Border Leicesters were an ideal fit for their system, being well suited to the local environment and injecting growth, fertility and muscling traits to the progeny from Merino dams.

He said Merino ewes were bought in each year, mostly from local saleyards, at about 1.5-years-old and retained for breeding and wool production until they reached about six-years-old.

"First cross Merino-Border Leicester lambs are predominantly sold at the October Naracoorte special ewe sale," he said.

"Wether lambs go mainly to processors around February.

"But this changes with seasonal conditions and prices."

The Hages undertake pasture improvements, and every year they sow or rejuvenate paddocks with strawberry clover, ryegrass and phalaris.

They also grow oats to bale for hay and use as a supplementary sheep feed.

The pregnant and lactating ewes are kept in top condition year-round.

They lamb onto pasture paddocks, where they remain for autumn, winter and spring.

In summer the lamb progeny is put on to broad bean crop stubbles for finishing to trade weights prior to sale.

The target is to provide wethers that will yield a carcase of about 28-30 kilograms, and quality young crossbred ewe lambs ready for breeding programs.

SALABLE: Wool can provide extra cashflow in a crossbred system.

SALABLE: Wool can provide extra cashflow in a crossbred system.

Mr Hage said the aim of the sheep enterprise was to get as many lambs on the ground as possible to ensure maximum flock productivity.

"To this end, we source our Border Leicester rams for key fertility rates, as well as checking the indexes for growth and carcase traits," he said.

"We want to be supplying the market with quality and fast-growing young sheep."

Mr Hage said the current market for young crossbred ewes was "on fire" , but he said it was business as usual for the family.

"We have been in this game for more than 20 years and we have seen cycles start and finish," he said.

"By having a third of our farming business split into sheep, a third into winter crops and a third into cattle we have most commodity bases covered.

"A mixed system reduces risks and provides less exposure to relying on just one or two key markets.

"And the crops and stock enterprises have great synergies to help ensure we can continue being productive across the long-term."

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