Homemade pellets boost ewe, lamb success

Homemade pellets boost ewe, lamb success

Sheep National
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The Williams family from Bordertown have added yet another string to their bow, manufacturing livestock pellets.

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You could be forgiven for thinking Tim, Greg and Nick Williams and their families from Bordertown were busy enough selling concrete tanks and toilet units throughout Australia, while running the local pub - the Mundulla Hotel - and a successful farming business.

But a desire to drought-proof their 2430 hectare mixed farming business, Willswood Farms, and more intensively feed their sheep has led them to add one more venture - manufacturing livestock pellets.

For the past three years they have been making grain-based pellets, largely for sheep, producing a ewe lactating pellet and a lamb finishing pellet.

They have just bought a second press to double their capacity to 50 tonnes a day and keep up with increasing demand for their Willswood Pellets.

Greg says the idea came after buying in pellets in 2006 when "they hardly harvested a crop".

"We had always grown our own grain and fed oats or barley to the sheep but they didn't do as well as they did on some pellets we bought in 2006 so then we went down the track of whether we could make them ourselves," he said.

Tim says they could could also see an opportunity being located in a big livestock production area, especially during dry seasons.

"The closest pellets were both four hours drive away at Kapunda and Cobram, Vic and both were sourcing oat offal from Blue Lake Milling," he said.

After extensive research, the Williamses took the plunge buying a mill, with a 25t/day capacity, from Palmer Milling Engineering at Griffith, NSW.

"We thought we would start off small and if everything went pear shaped we could just make enough pellets for ourselves," Greg said.

They were very quickly operating the pellet mill five days a week, going up to seven days during the busy period from December through to April-May.

"We thought it would be good to sell a few to other local farmers, we haven't even advertised and we are barely keeping up," Greg added.

Their clients have come from the Mallee, South East and into the Vic Wimmera, selling by truckload or smaller bulka bags.

Even Bordertown High School has had good success feeding their led steers on Williams Pellets.

As time has gone on they have switched from buying in all the pellet ingredients to using all their own grain, except the canola.

"We have changed our cropping rotation, it is now largely barley, beans and canola," Greg said.

The Williamses make a ewe pellet that is 15 per cent protein and 13.5pc energy as well as a lamb finishing pellet, which is 17pc protein and 12.5pc energy.

They use livestock nutritionist Tanja Calitz from A.C.E Livestock Consulting, Adelaide, to assist in the formulation.

"We have just sent a sample away for a 10pc protein ewe maintenance pellet, which we expect to fly out the door from January onwards when many stubbles are eaten out," Greg said.

It is rewarding when you see the weight gain on your own lambs... - TIM WILLIAMS

The pellets also contain ammonium chloride to prevent kidney stones, a buffer to prevent acidosis and other additives.

The Williamses have been able to see first hand how the pellets perform, using nearly half of the 5000-6000t of the pellets they produce each year.

These are trail fed to their Merino and first-cross ewes in the paddock to boost lambing percentages and also used in the feedlot where they finish up to 16,000-18,000 lambs a year.

These lambs are sold to JBS Australia's abattoir located just down the road.

"We have probably always worked off the benchmark of 300 grams a day (weight gain) but we would very rarely get under that and anywhere up to 450g/day with a mob last year and 410g/day was quite often," Tim said.

"Once you work that out and your yields, it is a cheap way of feeding.

"You are probably only looking at the cost of the pellets being about $100/t above the wheat or barley price."

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Being a grain-based pellet, Greg says it is important to introduce the lambs slowly across a week or fortnight using the lower protein ewe pellet and generous amounts of cereal hay in a holding paddock.

Once they enter the feedlot, the lamb finishing pellets are available as needed to the sheep with the Williamses designing an automated delivery system for the feed bunker, which transects the eight paddocks.

"Our lamb losses are well below the 2pc industry benchmark," Greg said.

They have erected a new shed on-farm to house the two presses and expect the expanded capacity will be fully operational by March/April next year.

"It is rewarding when you see the weight gain on your own lambs and the phone calls from clients who have said they have never had weight gains like this," Tim said.

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