MERINO OPERATION MAKING THE MOST OF FarmIQ
Paul and Prue Ensor have been running their merino-based high country property in the Rakaia Gorge since 2004. Now covering an area of 1035ha, following the release of 3000ha under Tenure Review, they lease the property from a family trust and own the stock. They’re committed to maximising the potential of both - and are among the first merino farmers to join FarmIQ.
We have just started to do our second round of weighing and plan to weigh lambs again prior to going onto winter feed. Next year, we’ll tag all the ewe lambs at tailing - the earlier we start measuring the better. At tailing we’ll be able to identify them from their birth mob, we’ll know which micron group the mother came from, and culling decisions won’t disadvantage twins.
Our ewe fleeces averaged 16.3 microns this year with the finest bale of hogget wool at 14.5 – but we’re as interested in improving the wool quality as we are the fineness. There’s not a lot of premium in the ultra fine at the moment – not many people are buying €5000 suits in Europe right now – but we’re optimistic the premiums will come back.
The wool pipeline is quite empty and we have to be fairly happy with prices. At an average of $24/kg and $28/kg clean for the ewes and hoggets respectively, it’s close to the previous peak in 2001, and compares with $10.33 in 2005. That was really tough!
We micron test all hoggets and two tooths before shearing and draft them into micron lines for shearing. Our goal is to be able to read the tag during shearing and follow each fleece through the shed. This will allow us to calculate the value of the fleece from each animal and take into account how many lambs the ewe reared in the season prior which will influence how much wool she will produce.
I think it’s about being able to understand the figures behind the figures, and being in a position to make as few assumptions as possible.
Being in FarmIQ will also help us understand the effect of different feeds, especially for the lambs and hoggets. We're experimenting with mobs on straight lucerne, lucerne/grass mix and ryegrass/white clover, and the data should make these experiments more meaningful.
We’re contracted to Silver Fern Farms through their ‘Silere’- Alpine Origin Merino programme for the next two years and, with the help of lucerne, have got average weights to 18kg, from 15kg over the past three years.
We’re selling hoggets after shearing, this year averaging $54.45 per fleece and $131 per head for the carcass, which is pretty pleasing. There’s real potential to better understand where the better yielding lambs are coming from and what they’ve been eating.
It’s early days, but I’ve already started to think differently about the business. Behind all the figures the goal is quite simple – to find the most productive animals and manage them to their potential.