Apparel Wool, Meat for a Feast

Dohne synergy is too hard to ignore

COURTNEY WALSH Farm Weekly 31st August 2017

DOHNES play a vital role in the Scotney family operation at Badgingarra.
“There’s too many synergies between cropping and sheep that I can’t imagine farming without them,” John Scotney said.
“In terms of weed control their value is clear, but with prices where they are these days, they’re fairly profitable on their own too.”
The Scotneys have been farming their home property at Badgingarra for 25 years and have always had sheep in the equation.
“When we moved here the area was much more sheep-focused than it was towards cropping,” John said.
“But as with everywhere, that’s gradually changed.
“Here we sit at about 70 per cent crop, 30pc sheep which we find is a good balance.”
The Scotneys tried a few different breeds initially but settled on Dohnes as the most profitable and easy maintenance breed for their environment.
“We were looking for that real dual-purpose animal and liked the growth, fertility and wool traits of the Dohnes,” John said.
On the home property the Scotneys usually run 5000 breeding Dohne ewes, with half mated back to Dohne and half to Poll Dorsets for prime lamb production.
“This year we’re down on numbers because in June we sold all of the ewes which were pregnant with crossbred lambs,” John said.
“We wanted to lighten the pressure on the pastures so having less numbers certainly made a difference.
“I know sheep are profitable at the moment, but if you asked me about how I felt about them in June, I would have been much less enthusiastic.”
The Dohne genetics on the property include Far Valley and more recently Chirniminup.
“We’ve been buying from Chirniminup for quite a while and we’re going in the direction we want,” John said.
“We’re pretty happy with the body type we’ve bred into the flock, so we’re working on the wool side of things.”
The focus is on yield and cut, with John saying the idea was to try to improve wool traits without compromising on the carcase traits they’ve put so much effort into.
“I think high 60s are achievable for yield in this area but at the moment we’re probably sitting at about the mid-50s,” he said.
“Obviously that depends on how the season turns out too, but that’ll be a long-term effort.”

Dohne synergy is too hard to ignore

Badgingarra producer John Scotney says there are too many synergies between his Dohne operation and his cropping program to imagine farming without them.
The overall yearly process at the Scotney home property was planned around having a spring lambing.
“We wanted to have the lambs on the ground in spring which suits the ewes and the fertility of the animal,” John said.
“We’ve found lambing down from the first of August has worked well for our lambing percentage which was also something we’d wanted to work on early on.
“By lambing in August we are also able, during the seeding period, to treat the ewes as a dry animal because it’s so early into their pregnancy at that point and they don’t need too much looking after.
“Some years they do get a bit of a tough trot in that period but we find the Dohnes handle it well.”
Shearing is in June and John says there are rarely issues with winter weather affecting the process.
“We wanted to shear in winter because it ties in with our August lambing,” John said.
“They have a better time of it lambing if they’re off shears, so we try to get it all done at least six weeks before they start.
“Our shearing contractor is usually flexible around that time of year, so if there’s a bit of weather coming in we can move things around to suit.
“We don’t like to have the ewes in the shed for long, that’s definitely something we keep an eye on.”
The Dohne lambs get carried through until the next shearing when they have about 10 months of wool on them, but the crossbred lambs have a clip in November to free them up before going onto stubble.

Dohne synergy is too hard to ignore 2

The lambs at the Scotney’s place drop in August in a late lambing slot that suits the overall enterprise.

“We find the lambs grow better if they’ve been shorn so even though that’s usually a dead loss for us in terms of wool, we find it’s necessary for them to perform how they need to, growth-wise, in the summer,” John said.
After the ewes are shorn in June, they get looked after all the way up to lambing.
“The one thing we’re not doing at the moment is twining up the mobs and that is something we can look to in the future to try to push those lambing percentages a bit higher,” John said.
The tightest period of the year for the Scotneys is the lead up to harvest when the ewes have lambs at foot and the feed base is getting run down.
“Just before harvest, we bring them into portable yards for weaning then the lambs go back into the paddock they’ve come from so they’re familiar with their surroundings,” John said.
“We leave them there for about a week while we’re taking off the canola and as soon as there are some stubbles available they head onto those.
“Once there are enough stubbles, the entire flock follows the header and those stubbles sustain the flock until late summer.
“We find the Dohnes do well on the stubbles because we’re often able to get a first draft of lambs off by late February.”
When it comes to selling lambs, the Scotneys play the market and sell wherever the best opportunity is.
John said they’d average about 21 kilograms carcase weight with no demand issues and the majority would head to Fletchers.
“I guess our philosophy with the sheep is to try to keep the operation as simple as possible,” John said.
“We bring them into the yards as little as we can and let them take care of themselves a lot of the time.
“At the end of the day, they complement our cropping program through strategic crop grazing and the role clover-based pastures have within our crop rotation – so putting a bit of work into them is absolutely worth it.”
Looking forward, the plan is to get the stocking rate back to where it usually sits after selling off such large numbers in June.
“It shouldn’t take too long to get back to where we were because we retained all of our Dohne ewe hoggets so they’ll go back into the breeding flock,” John said.
“We plan to continue to get more and more selective on the traits we’re after so we’re moving in the direction we want to be.”

Dohne synergy is too hard to ignore 3

The Scotneys are focusing on yield and cut on the wool side of their Dohne flock.

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