THE Australian White sheep breed has had its name up in lights in recent months, but the stocky meat producers have been a consistent performer for Lameroo's Brenton Pudney and family for eight years.
Mr Pudney said luck and his stock agent's suggestion in 2013, not foresight on his behalf, was now helping them reap the rewards of high ewe lamb prices and strong over-the-hooks returns from abattoirs.
Brenton and wife Rebecca farm with his father Des and mother Vicki, while also sharefarming and leasing other land and employing two full-time workers Troy Gunter and Tom Huiskamp.
They currently run 800 Merino ewes and 1100 F4 and F5 Australian Whites, producing 1500 AW lambs a year over a 10-month mating period.
In 1998, with wool prices average and seeking ease of management from a shedding breed, the Pudneys put Wiltipoll rams over Merino ewes and were breeding those for ten years until they got to full shedding.
They were only seasonal breeders and the family wanted to produce lambs year round so they then tried their hand at Dorpers from 2008.
"In 2013, we'd come to the conclusion that the Dorper's body structure wasn't holding up and they were having front leg issues," Mr Pudney said.
"Our stock agent (Spence Dix & Co's Luke Schreiber) put us onto Aussie Whites. At the time, I couldn't find any information about them."
The Pudneys bought three rams from the Ardene stud and haven't looked back since then.
"We've found they have a calmer temperament than Dorpers and have better structure," Mr Pudney said.
"We can get seven years out of a breeding ewe, whereas we were getting five to five and a half out of Dorpers."
Their Aussie White rams are left in with ewes for ten months a year - they avoid lambing in the hot January and February months - with mobs bought in every six weeks to earmark, vaccinate and castrate lambs.
Tails are left on with no blowfly issues and larger lambs are weaned into different paddocks.
As well as not needing to shear and having a high meat yield, Mr Pudney said Australian Whites maintained body condition on stubbles better than their Merinos, staying in the fat score three and four range all year.
The Pudneys market wether lambs themselves and they go to abattoirs including JBS and TFI.
Mr Pudney said the lambs were sent in at 45 kilograms plus liveweight and consistently dressed out at 49 to 51 per cent yield, above the 47pc guide commonly used by livestock market meat buyers, which made the risk of their own marketing well worth it.
The Pudneys have only been selling ewe lambs on AuctionsPlus for the past three years because there was no market for them prior to that, with all lambs going over the hooks.
The ewe lambs are sold at about six months of age and the majority have gone into NSW.
PUDNEYS RIDE PEAKS AND TROUGHS
LAMEROO farmer Brenton Pudney says the recent popularity boom in Australian Whites - highlighted by a $165,000 ram purchase at Tattykeel stud, Oberon, NSW - was good for the breed and producers already entrenched, but believes a fall-off is inevitable.
"It's good for the breed and that shedding and marbling could be an advantage for the lamb industry in 10-15 years," he said.
"I believe the prices will come back when the hype disappears or when those that want to get into the breed have got the numbers they require."
Mr Pudney said while there was no premium currently paid for intramuscular fat or the breed's vaunted low fat melting point by processors, he believed there was potential for a grading system to be introduced in the future.
The Pudneys received more than $340 for ewe lambs last year and just last week averaged close to $456 for 151 six-month-old ewe lambs sold on AuctionsPlus.
Mr Pudney said they planned to change the ratio of their sheep enterprise in coming years, building their Australian White ewe numbers to 1500 and reducing the Merino flock.
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