Search

It has finally rained on us. We've received ~30mm over the past week and the farm is greening up very quickly, so I have implemented deferred grazing. You don't hear that terminology much these days, but it is a technique many of us use.


What it means is that when rains begin that are sufficient to germinate the clover and ryegrass, we take the sheep off the paddocks and feed them in containment areas for 2-4 weeks. This makes a significant difference to the pasture production capacity for the rest of the year, so it is a crucial step. Taking sheep off the paddocks enables the clover and ryegrass to grow 2+ leaves and have roots down in the soil and have some stored energy to cope with grazing.


It means when the plants are initially grazed, the pasture can bounce back faster. If we grazed while the ryegrass and clovers first emerge, we would lose many of the plants, and they would take many weeks longer to get to the stage where they are growing as fast as they can. Leaves grow leaves. Because the soil is still warm, the plants will grow very quickly, so it is likely we will be able to start grazing the paddocks again in as little as two weeks.


In other news, we have been selling as many sheep as we can that are ready for the market to capture these high prices, and it helps us with deferred grazing.


We have been experiencing even higher numbers of visitors wanting to see what their investment has created, or to do their due diligence in deciding to become a shareholder. Some individuals, companies and groups of investors are showing interest in obtaining all of the remaining shares we have available and I am in discussions with them. I can't say too much on this forum, but if you are an existing shareholder, you might be receiving some very goods news on your share value as soon as all the remaining shares have been sold. All the Dad & Mum investors will be perpetually rewarded for enabling this venture to begin. I am forever grateful to those who stepped out in faith. The corporates are starting to see the potential of what we are achieving. Exciting times ahead.

With the current relatively high prices for sheep and the very high demand for sheep to be sent to the eastern states (of Australia), we took the opportunity to do a little extra culling. We took out the bottom 250 lambs we were waiting to fatten up to be joined and put them on a truck yesterday, along with the shorn merinos and suffolk x merino trade lambs we had ready to sell. Our first truck left yesterday with 790 of them and we have another 700+ to go on the next truck when it arrives, and then a smaller truckload of the dregs.


We'll also be taking the opportunity to pull out dry ewes (20-30) who lost their lambs before we get to the weaning stage. ~$120,000 for one truck load of sheep is too hard to ignore and we do have the sheep to sell. Our new milestone target is $250,000 of sales in a month, so it looks like we will achieve that this month, and we have bales of wool to sell. Sigh. That wasn't something I planned on, nor want to have to do again. We won't be doing that again.


After this clean up of everything we can sell, we will be down to our three ewe mobs and 53 rams. One mob has lambs that will be weaned in a few weeks and have rams put back in. Another mob is lambing right now, and our largest mob is partying with the rams. When it starts raining, we will look at buying in more trade lambs to fatten up, or if funds allow, obtain another 1500-2000 ewes for joining.


We have received some rain. 6mm. It made a nice little burst of green to the pastures as you can see in the photos below. Things are getting tight now as the sheep have eaten the dry feed down and are eating out the green kikuyu within a few days of being in the paddock, so we are starting to supplement with some hay and lupins where needed.


Our average break to the season is March, so statistically we are close to the opening rains arriving. And when they do, because we now have containment areas in place with lick feeders and water, the intention is to take all the sheep off the paddocks for 2-3 weeks to allow the clovers and ryegrass to get a little head start. The kikuyu will boom away in that time to give a nice green feed to the sheep.


Our trade suffolk xb lambs getting loaded on their journey to NSW.

Our cull ultrawhite ewe lambs and wethers being loaded en route to NSW.

The shorn merino lambs being loaded.

Another view of our shorn merino lambs sold to a NSW buyer.

Our ewes with lambs at foot. That 6mm of rain made a nice improvement.

It's quite green on 80% of the farm.

It's green, but it'll only take the sheep 3-4 days to eat all the green out. Most of the dry feed has been eaten now.

I just read a lovely quote from a Kit Pharo newsletter that said: "Johan Zietsman said, “If corn farmers thought like (USA) beef producers, they would space their plants far apart and try to maximize the number of ears per plant and the number of kernels per ear. They would think nothing about yield per acre. In the end, they would all go broke.”"


Now I love Kit Pharo and his cattle breeding philosophies and if Caluka Farms ever runs a beef cattle farm, I will be using his bulls via the Australian operation - Furracabad Station in NSW. The way he selects cattle is the way I think is the correct way, and is the way I want sheep breeders to breed rams for us. I've imported one of his bull's semen previously and the progeny blew me away. Absolutely fantastic genetics.


But, and I have written to Kit about this, his philosophy on low cost, low cost, low cost farming does not work in our situation. In fact, it would send us broke. It works in his environment - harsh, low rainfall - but not ours.


To take his philosophy to the extreme and not spend a single cent on pastures or the animals, you would end up choosing animals, eventually, that can survive in that environment. You'd go broke here of course. It rains on Caluka Farms (we are ~700mm/year average) and our soils are very acidic and very infertile. You would not be able to run much more than 5 sheep/ha at best. Many are only 3/ha. The potential however is >50/ha. To run 5 sheep/ha or less, you would need a large farm to make enough profit to make a living or else you are a hobby farmer.


We do need to spend money on lime and fertilisers here to fix the natural deficiencies and acidity so that we can grow pasture. A low cost measure to me will be lost cost per sheep in the future when we have everything fixed in the pastures. But, it is wrong (unwise) in our environment to target low costs per sheep from the beginning - ie it is unwise here to not spend.


It is pastures first to utilise the rainfall we are blessed with, then have the sheep graze it, and that is when I want sheep genetics that I do not have to spend money on. There are fantastic genetics in sheep waiting to be harnessed and introduced to Australia. There are sheep that are resistant to intestinal worms, footrot, foot scald (wet feet), lice, flies, and do not need their tales removed. And definitely do not need mulesing.


And the other traits I want are animals that are hardy and fertile with very strong mothering instincts. They must be able to get fat on dead grass and not lose weight when times are tough. This is where I am 100% in agreement with Kit Pharo's breeding philosophies and is why I am seeking out sheep breeders to provide those type of rams for us. The breed I am stubbornly focussed on using is Katahdins, but I still can't import them from the USA because they are resistant to scrapie. Yeah, weird rules and it's a long story and it is not completed yet. But I will keep trying to find a way to get them into Australia.


Once they are in, then it will be so much easier for breeders here to provide us with the genetics we want. They will put them into SheepMaster and UltraWhite type breeds initially and build up pure Katahdin numbers, but in the meantime while they go through that process, I will be AI'ing all our best ewes with the best Katahdin ram semen we can import.


My vision is sheep that will never need drenching, a full shedding (no clumps of hair), don't need tails removed, are footrot and foot scald resistant, will get fat on dead grass, will produce twins and triplets every 7-8 months and live for >10 years. Impossible? Absolutely not. I've seen sheep that can do this and so those genetics do exist. That's where we are heading with Caluka Farms as quickly as I can.


Some final comments on this low cost philosophy because I've probably confused everyone. For me, it is pastures first. I aim to fix everything that is stopping pastures from growing and being nutritious and to utilise every millimetre of rain we receive. Then my focus goes to low cost sheep. It is wrong here to focus on low cost pastures because we do have the rainfall and have so much pasture growth available.


I'm scaring many people with what I am doing with the pastures😁, but, once they "see" what is happening, they too can then see the profit that is waiting for everyone to obtain. We will have a very low cost per sheep in the future when we have the pastures pumping to their maximum and we have the scale to be as efficient with capital we we can, and we have Katahdin type genetics. Pastures first, low cost sheep second.



© 2018 all rights reserved