The Monaro sheep industry has traditionally been based on Merino ewes.  With the current (May 2010) volatility of the wool industry, a buoyant in the meat industry and price of sheep in general and integration of cropping and grazing, there is an opportunity to rethink how the ewe can be used.

Monaro Farming Systems saw an opportunity to invite key speakers to the Monaro to discuss this issue.

In general, there are four different joining’s currently practised in the region;

  1. Merino to Merino (traditional self-replacing merino flock)
  2. Merino to Border Leister (or other for the production of first cross lambs)
  3. Merino to a terminal
  4. First cross ewe to a terminal sire

The main questions which MFS is aiming to examine with the Monaro Mums project are:

  • What are the true differences between the sheep enterprises?
  • Is the current model of running a Self Replacing Merino Flock (SRMF) the best model from a business point of view?
  • What is the contribution of the Merino ewe to the flock’s potential from a financial perspective?

On-farm, paddock trials to quantify meat production systems and identify key benchmarks for profitable wool and meat production can be extremely useful but the disadvantages are the long lag time for results and the cost and resources to set up.

MFS believes the use of decision support tools such as “GrassGro Modelling” allows this complex issue to be fully explored  in a much shorter timeframe and with the integration of a variety of scenarios and variables.

The GrassGro® model combines both production and financial factors and has the capacity to conduct comparative analysis of the different ewe enterprises which can show impacts on the farm business from changing enterprises or shifting emphasis between enterprises.

This unique tool can show producers the impacts certain decisions will have on their business profitability long-term, before committing resources, therefore enabling well informed business choices based on sound risk management principles and economic analysis.

Speakers included Phil Graham and Doug Alcock (NSW Industry & Investment), David Sackett (CEO Growth Farms Australia) and Hamish Dickson (Productive Nutrition, SA).

The speakers covered issues ranging from the average net profit ($/Ha/100mm) for wool, dual purpose and prime lamb enterprises over the last 10 years to changes in profitability, productivity and terms of trade for these enterprises over the last 40 years.

The amount of variation within enterprises was shown to be much more than the variation between enterprises. Variations in profits $ per dse (dry sheep equivalent) within the prime lamb and wool enterprises can vary up to $60 per dse and profit $/ha can vary up to $150/ha within different merino breeding enterprise’s.
Impacts of flock fertility on overall productivity were discussed as well as Industry genetic gains for border, terminal and merino sheep breeds.

GrassGro® modelling was used to demonstrate the impact of changing variables such as market prices and ewe replacement costs etc on the wool vs meat enterprise’s.

GrassGro® demonstrated the differences in profit $/ha for prime lamb versus terminal versus merino enterprises and the profit and risk profiles for each enterprise.

Overall the afternoon presented quality information on a relevant and timely issue and participants found it a stimulating, thought provoking and informative afternoon.

Comments from participants….

“people were really thinking about how it was relating to their operation. GrassGro®  showed it’s true worth now that we have information relevant to the Monaro and it was the reason we saw audience participation”

“the day was of great value. I think it outlines the key points to think about with regards to enterprise choice. The main message I received was do what you do best before looking over the fence to change.”

Project Funder: MFS