A shedding breed with the ability to turn off sucker lambs at an early age was on the priority list for prime lamb producers Malcolm and Kerrie Plum.
This needed to be combined with a quiet temperament, high fertility, lambing ease, and mothering and foraging ability
The couple trialled several shedding breeds before settling on the Australian White, a stabilised composite based on the Van Rooy, Texel, Dorset and Dorper breeds.
Early maturing and with an open breeding season, it is a white sheep with a full hair pattern and good shedding.
The breed is highly fertile and can be run as a self-replacing flock.
Malcolm and Kerrie have established the Kalnari Australian White Stud at Tarcutta and are aiming to run a commercial flock of 1000 purebred ewes.
They first represented the breed at the 2014 Henty Machinery Field Days, sharing a site with the Bungarley Stud, Tarcutta.
This year they will display purebred rams and ewes, plus crossbred progeny.
The couple are second generation farmers on their 415ha property.
Set in a 600mm rainfall zone, the red to clay loam soils support oats, canola, lupins, a 70 cow beef herd, 100 stud ewes and 1000 crossbred ewes.
“All of our sheep are pasture reared with no supplementary feeding as they must produce prime lambs which hit the ground running,’’ Kerrie said.
“Both of us have farming backgrounds so sheep production is in our veins.’’
The couple originally ran Border Leicester-Merino cross ewes joined to Poll Dorset rams but the lack of local shearers prompted a swing towards a shedding breed.
They trialled two different shedding breeds before coming across the Australian White in 2009.
The quick maturity rates of Australian Whites have enabled the Plums to finish crossbred suckers at 14-18 weeks of age to a dressed weight of 23kg and 52 per cent yield.
An embryo transfer program is underway to rapidly build purebred genetics.
Kerrie has a background in horse breeding and is a stickler for structural soundness in livestock.
“I apply all my knowledge of conformation during ram selection and classing – I love putting pedigrees and genetics together,’’ she said.
“Ram mobility and soundness are considered vital for good joining rates and increased longevity in rams.’’
Ewes are joined for six weeks running on crop stubbles throughout the summer months.
A portion of ewes are joined in November, the rest being joined in February.
They lamb on mixed pastures of clover, ryegrass, phalaris or on oat crops in the winter.
Ewe lambs are joined from eight months of age at a minimum liveweight of 50kg.
Any young ewes scanning empty after the November mating are re-joined in February.
“Nutrition and management needs to be spot on when joining ewe lambs,’’ Kerrie said.
The couple aim to build their purebred commercial flock to 1000 ewes and bought 380 Poll Dorset ewes in 2010 to use in the upgrade.
“Most of our commercial ewes are now F2 to F4 Australian White, with only a portion of the earlier upgrades still requiring shearing,’’ Kerrie said.
“There is no crutching and the haired types are virtually flystrike free. The annual shearing has been reduced from a week to two days.’’
During lamb marking, progeny are classed on structure and hair type with any Dorset type wools
Lambs are sold over-the-hooks or through the Wagga saleyards. Mixed sex Australian White cross lambs averaged $170 at Wagga earlier in the year.
Kerrie said chiller feedback sheets revealed the crossbred lambs could easily meet target weights with good fat cover at an early age.
A mobile butcher processes the crossbred lambs for the home freezer.
“The butcher feedback is valuable – we have found the lamb to be succulent and tender,’’ Kerrie said.
She maintains full pedigree and performance records on all stud stock, with post-weaning weights being recorded for both stud and commercial lambs.
Kalnari has been selling rams privately into Dorper and Wiltipoll flocks since 2013, and surplus ewes have been popular with small landholders.
Malcolm, a hay contractor, and Kerrie were among those farmers to donate a truckload of hay to drought stricken farmers through the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners.
“We wanted to show we care and for people caught in that situation to know other farmers do care,’’ Kerrie said.
“Receiving donated fodder would be a huge boost to pull through mentally – we have all been through droughts and understand the suffering.’’