The mixed cropping and livestock enterprise Wirrinourt at Lake Bolac has been transformed in recent years, and the results are outstanding.
Smaller mob sizes during lambing, containment paddocks, split lambing, the end of mulesing and changes to pastures have helped the business to improve in almost every aspect.
The farm owned by the Paterson family is on three sites north and south of Lake Bolac, covering about 5100 hectares combined. About 4000 hectares are dedicated to cropping and 1015 to grazing. Each year the farm joins between 8000-9000 ewes, including 500 stud Merino and poll Merino ewes, reaching a peak of about 20,000 sheep.
Livestock manager Matt Charles says the changes mean the farm is reaching its peak.
“It’s like a curve, you get to a certain point with your stocking rate and then your gross margin per hectare starts going down; we feel like we’re at that point.”
One of the key changes has been the introduction of smaller paddocks and mobs during lambing.
Matt attended field days where he saw the research into the impact mob and paddock size has on lamb survival and what temporary fencing may offer in the lambing period.
Inspired by the success of the trials, the system was implemented with immediate results.
“We picked up that mob size and paddock size has a massive influence on survival rates,” Matt said. “In the trials, the results were replicated on all four properties that were lambing at different times and with different sorts of sheep.
“The smaller the paddock and smaller the mob, the higher your survival; and that’s exactly what happened to us as well.”
In the first year at Wirrinourt, temporary fencing was used to split four paddocks.
The next year in addition to temporary options, permanent fencing was added along the front of plantations to create five-hectare paddocks.
The results were better than expected. The first year they marked nearly 20 per cent more lambs than elsewhere on the farm.
With nine additional small paddocks the following year, there was again close to 20 per cent more live lambs than other areas.
“I pick the smallest paddocks as the first priority,” Matt said. “A lot of our twins won’t be in bigger than a 10-hectare paddock and we have a maximum of 10 ewes to a hectare in any of those paddocks.”
The farm has put the permanent paddocks in front of plantations and continues to use temporary fencing to split 20-hectare paddocks.
The changes have created a more efficient and successful farming system.
This article was first published in The Fence magazine.