Mark and Vicki Murphy have undertaken a personal challenge to make the Merino a more productive, easier care, sustainable and enjoyable to manage sheep.
They use best practice management, visual appraisal, Australian Sheep Breeding Values and the latest genetic and electronic technology.
The result is a plainer bodied, more robust animal producing earlier maturing progeny, giving commercial producers the ability to turn off a lamb with a shorn fleece of wool as surplus income.
The couple runs 850 stud ewes in their two dual purpose SRS Merino studs – Karbullah Polls and Boyanga Merinos – on 3144ha at Goondiwindi, Queensland.
Eighteen specially selected rams will be offered at Westech Field Days, Barcaldine, on September 7-8 through FarmGate Auctions and this will be followed by a COVIDsafe on-farm open day on September 10.
A total of 188 rams have been catalogued for the Karbullah on-property sale on September 20, at 12.30pm, also interfaced with FarmGate Auctions and with viewing of the sale rams from 9.30am.
Mr Murphy said the productive, plain bodied Merino resulted in reduced drenching, the elimination of body strike and fleece rot and the cessation of mulesing at Karbullah.
The absence of mulesing has resulted in the flock being Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) accredited, drawing a recent 260c/kg premium for a line off the main ewes.
Adult ewes average 19 micron with fleece weights of 6kg.
“The sheep are shorn six monthly which is worth a half to three-quarters body score, equating to an extra 12-15 lambs,” Mr Murphy said.
“We pay a lot of attention to fat and muscle as they are the indicators of the engine room of the animal –that’s where our doability and capacity to handle tough times comes from, to reproduce, survive and produce.
“We put huge pressure on skin quality so we have a good loose pliable skin producing soft, white and dense wool.”
Bare breeches and udders are coming through in the adult ewes on the back of selection pressure.
The family is not adverse to pushing the boundaries, with the flock marking 141 per cent of lambs and on track to achieve a target of 150 per cent this year for lambs to ewes joined.
“Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) have really helped us big time and we noticed in the early 2000s how fat and muscle were really driving our production,” Mr Murphy said.
“It was important for lamb survival and animal welfare, and that has enabled us to stay in front of the game in the doability of the Merino.”
The Murphys place pressure on fertility with all ewes either pregnancy scanned empty or losing lambs being culled.
“Keep a tight joining cycle and then be tough on the ones who don’t rear a lamb – this results in a very productive flock,” Mr Murphy said.
Data is collected on lamb weaning weights, wool weight, scans for eye muscle and fat, body wrinkle and ram scrotal size.
At lambing, data is collected on mothering ability, whether a ewe delivered single or multiple lambs, and together with the dam and sire pedigree is submitted to MERINOSELECT.
Karbullah wethers with ASBVs for yearling growth at +6 to +9kg hit 25kg carcase weight at seven months of age, cutting 2.5kg of 16.5 micron wool.
The Murphys will interface their on-property ram sale for with FarmGate Auctions this year.
“We can’t fault FarmGate’s professional attitude and assistance,” Mr Murphy said.
“Buyers can peruse the photographs, videos and performance data of the rams online beforehand.
“We’ve already had some solid orders coming in for rams within 400km of us as people rebuild their sheep numbers.
“Due to COVID restrictions, rams can be delivered north to Longreach and south to Dubbo and many places in between.”
FarmGate Auctions will give an online auction demonstration at the Westech Field Days at 12pm on Tuesday, September 7.