Last year it was reported that Australian Sheep flock numbers had fallen to a 104 year low, dropping 7% on 2008. The 71.6 million sheep is about 40% lower than in 2000 and the ewe population seems to be aging too suggesting that producers are more focused on sheep for dinner rather than Italian suits. Contributing factors are the long drought, low wool prices, high feed costs and rising lamb prices.
The concern is that the ewe flock, in particular Merino ewes, will lose its critical mass and that future demand for lamb and wool will be harder to meet. We know that first cross ewe prices have stayed firm and the average price in the end of 2009 and start of 2010 sales was over $140.00. We paid 30% more this year for our 102 first cross ewe lambs at the Goulburn Sales and still expect that we will double our money so will continue to invest in sheep.
The profitability of a wool-meat enterprise, and especially a Border Leicester Stud, still compares favorably with cropping enterprises and sheep are still the first choice for the Daramalan property. We have a friend who has an Agri-Investment fund that owns large broad acre farms and has yet to post positive returns in three years.
Our biggest decisions of the first quarter have been made.
We culled the Sylvia Vale stud ewes hard and sold 50 to Southern Meats. That leaves us with a stud flock of 153 (113 from Sylvia Vale and 40 of their best ewe lambs). We have also drafted them into two mobs of 77 and 75. They will be joined to our best two stud rams, Osiris and Hermes, over the next 4-6 weeks.
We have also drafted out the best 39 ewe lambs to go into the stud flock next year and, most importantly, the best 67 ram lambs that we will nurture and then sell the best 45 in November as the first Daramalan Flock Rams. Fewer ram lambs will mean higher quality at the sale and we want to ensure that we start as we mean to continue.
All in all it has been a very busy past three months and with fencing, maintenance and crops to be sown it is going to be busy for the next few months too. We are learning plenty and fast and would like to acknowledge Terry McIntosh and Craig Coggan's help and advice. We could not wish for two better mentors.
More soon. Ciao.