A focus on breed a fit-for-purpose ewe


Rissmerino will host an on-property workshop on fit-for-purpose ewes and interface their ram sale with the digital selling platform FarmGate Auctions.

The steps to having fit-for-purpose ewes will be outlined at a workshop and open day hosted by southern Queensland Merino stud, Rissmerino, on August 17.

The Rissmann family will hold the free workshop featuring guest speaker Dr Mark Ferguson, NeXtGen Agri, as a precursor to their inaugural on-farm ram sale on Wednesday, August 18.

The workshop comprises four intensive learning modules covering the genetics of ewes that are farm fit, the nutrition required to keep those ewes fit, the business strategies required to stay fit and the management options to help growers run a fit business.

The workshop sessions will start at 9am (lunch is provided) and concludes at 3pm followed by inspections of sale rams, other sheep and wool.

Rissmerino will offer 65 rising two-year-old drought hardy, long bodied, white woolled stud poll rams on Wednesday, August 18 from 12pm.

The on-farm auction hosted by LRW Rural will be interfaced with FarmGate Auctions.

On sale day, rams will be available for inspection from 9am with an early lunch provided before the interfaced sale at 12 noon.

Located at Yelarbon, the stud is operated by Trevor, Linda, Alan and Kaylee Rissmann.

The family bought the entire draft of 1539 pregnant ewes and 58 sires offered at the first stage of the Well Gully Poll Merino dispersal sale in 2018 and have been selling the resulting rams by private treaty.

The Well Gully Poll Merinos are now running at the Rissmann’s property in a 550mm rainfall zone on brigalow-belah clay loam soils, the ewes are averaging 18.5 micron and cutting an average of 6-7kg with a 70 percent yield.

Co-principal Alan Rissmann said the family aimed to breed dual purpose poll Merinos with the ability to thrive in the harsh environment while producing soft, white and breathable wool able to resist fleece rot and fly strike.

Mr Rissmann said Rissmerino focuses on drought hardy, easy care sheep with lustrous white wool and backed by comprehensive data collection.

“We want great wool on an animal which doesn’t require much looking after,” he said.

“We select for a good crimp definition as a good indication of highly aligned fibres.

“If the fibres are evenly spaced and well aligned, there is nowhere for that moisture to get caught and trapped, and doesn’t provide an environment for flies and bacteria to breed causing flystrike and fleece rot.

“Softness of wool is another indicator of highly aligned wool resistant to flystrike and fleece rot.

“Ninety two per cent of all our yearlings tested at 99.9 or 100 comfort factor and have a low, even micron.

“We pay attention to the staple length with the aim of moving to a six monthly shearing.”

The family stopped mulesing in 2006 and the rare sheep that gets blown is culled.

Mr Rissmann said fertility was a key profit driver within the stud.

“Based on ewes joined, we aim to mark around 130 per cent,” he said.

“Last year we had 91 per cent lamb survival in our singles mobs and 85 per cent in the multiples.”

The balanced breeding program takes into account positive fat and eye muscle depth to increase fertility, lamb survival, lamb growth rates, the number of lambs sold, eating quality and value of surplus ewes.

An early maturing animal results in high weaning weights and a smaller, efficient adult ewe.

“We focus on early growth, high fat and muscle – we are not trying to produce 70-80kg ewes but want our ewes to reach 55-60kg at a younger age.”

In 2019, the stud turned off seven-month-old lambs at 24kg carcase weight and 12-month-old lambs at 35kg, but this year the entire drop will go through to shearing to collect fleece and carcase data.

“We are measuring based on their performance and not how they are managed,” Mr Rissmann said.

The surplus ewes and ram lambs are finished on mixed forage crops after weaning and turned off over-the-hooks to obtain carcase feedback.

“We also scan for fat and muscle at 11 months of age so the on-farm measurements are collected even on the ones we don’t sell.”

This year Rissmerino is trialing the early joining of ewe lambs at an average of 46kg liveweight.

The stud has moved to an eight month shearing but plans are to incorporate a double shearing.

Mr Rissmann said there was a 10 percent increase in lamb survival by a switch from a post joining shearing in May to pre-joining in February.

“Ewes coming off shears had a new lease of life and conception rates were higher,” he said.

“Six monthly shearing before joining and lambing would give a boost at key points in their life.”

The sheep enterprise dovetails with commercial cattle and a cropping program.

Mr Rissmann said the family chose to interface the first on-property ram sale with the digital selling platform FarmGate Auctions.

“We wanted to make the connection between breeding modern Merinos for Australian conditions and using a modern selling channel,” he said.

“We like the personal attention given by the FarmGate Auctions staff and are impressed by their ability to handle a lot of advertising in addition to managing the sale day.”

For further details or to register for the workshop visit www.rissmerino.com.au or www.farmgateauctions.com.au

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