Simple program for lamb success

KEEPING their program simple and using the right breed for their area is what keeps the Freeman family’s prime lamb enterprise viable.

Paul and Julie Freeman’s Redbrae farm consists of 8000 hectares and is situated in marginal country around Mullewa.

The family’s mixed farming enterprise is mainly cropping, with their sheep breeding program run as a sideline to complement their main business.

“I would say we are 80 per cent cropping and 20pc sheep,” Mr Freeman said.

“I pretty much run the sheep on 80pc of the property during summer.

“We do have lupins, which helps with this a lot.

“The sheep are useful in keeping the summer weeds down.”

Mr Freeman is the third generation to farm the family property and understands what works best in their area, having been on the farm all his life and having had sheep as a constant part of their business.

Their shift into running a prime lamb enterprise was driven by social rather than environmental factors and they have not looked back since.

“We have always had sheep,” Mr Freeman said.

“We used to run a Merino flock, but when the mulesing debate came in we decided to try (Prime) SAMMs because they were cleaner, more bare on the rear end.

“It has worked well for us, they are doing well here.”

This shift occurred about 14 years ago and in that time the Freemans have utilised three different Prime SAMM genetic lines, settling on the Sutherland’s Sandown SAMM stud, Badgingarra, for the past three years.

Mr Freeman said the hardiness of the Prime SAMM breed had come to the fore in his opinion, as they did so well, with little input, on their property.

“We try to keep it as simple as possible,” he said.

“We don’t want to have to do too much to the sheep to maintain them.

“They are hardier sheep than the Merinos we used to run.

“They are easier to get to market, because they are faster growing.”

The Freemans run about 900 breeding ewes and work around their cropping program to undertake key management tasks for their breeding program.

Joining takes place from January 1 and goes for an extended period of almost two months.

“We leave the rams in until the end of February,” Mr Freeman said.

“This is until we run all the sheep back in and then we take the rams out.”

He said the longer joining worked because they also had a very low ram to ewe ratio, with about 20 rams to almost 1000 ewes, depending on the year.

The ewes are trail fed a small amount of lupins in April and May, but they are also put onto the lupin stubbles and perform extremely well on this.

“Lambing occurs in June/July,” Mr Freeman said.

“Our average lambing percentage is in the 90s.

“But we have had up to just over 100pc too, it is very dependent on the season and we are not too fussed.”

The management task of marking takes place at the end of July and was conducted about a month ago.

“We tail during a quiet time during spraying,” Mr Freeman said.

“We also don’t want the lambs to get too big, because we have to lift them.

“Shearing will be in September.

“We tried separate shearing for the ewes and lambs, but now we do them all at the same time.”

He said it was all part of keeping the program simpler and easier to manage.

In keeping with their philosophy of keeping things easier, the Freemans remain flexible with their options for selling their wether lambs, not preferencing the store, export or processing markets.

“We remain flexible and go with whatever market is best,” Mr Freeman said.

“Our local Nutrien Livestock agent Chad Smith helps us out here a lot too and lets us know what is the best option.

“As long as our sheep are at the right stage and are fat, then they will sell.”

They offload their wether lambs in March and April.

“They are usually a nice size by then,” he said.

“They have been on the lupin stubble and I have chaff carts in the paddocks, so there are piles of chaff with lupins in the mix, which helps them along.

“We don’t have to carry them too long, which is great.”

They sell their cull ewes at the same time.


Original article credit

Main image credit – Julie and Paul Freeman utilise 80 per cent of their 8000 hectare property to graze their Prime SAMM sheep in summer, helping to reduce the summer weeds for their cropping operation and maintain the condition of their prime lambs.