Using Poll Dorset terminal sires to produce prime lambs for meat production is proving to be a profitable facet of the Williams family’s mixed enterprise.
Brothers Tim, Greg and Nick, and father Peter, farm about 2500 hectares of land in the Tatiara region, with properties near Bordertown, Mundulla and Frances.
They run about 2500 Merino ewes for first-cross production and about 2500 first-cross ewes for prime lamb
production, also cropping 800ha to canola, beans, wheat, barley and oats.
A small trade cattle operation and a newly-installed pellet mill to make and sell pellets for stock feed rounds out a diverse enterprise.
In the sheep operation, Poll Dorset rams are put over first-cross ewes to produce prime lambs which are mainly sold over-the-hooks to meat processor JBS Bordertown.
Tim said first-cross ewe lambs are sold at the Naracoorte off-shears ewe lamb sale, while the wether portion either go into their feedlot or are finished on bean stubbles.
“We sell about 5000 to 6000 lambs a year, about half of those are from the Merino ewes and half from the first-cross ewes, and we also trade a few lambs and put them through our feedlot and onto bean stubbles, so we sell about 8000 to 9000 lambs a year in total,” he said.
“The Poll Dorsets are a good meat-producing terminal sire and are well put together,” Tim said.
“The lambs from the Poll Dorset ram over a first-cross ewe are a premium product.”
Tim said the versatility of the Poll Dorset-cross was highlighted with their prime lambs able to be sold at anywhere between a sucker at about four months old to 12 months of age, with selling decisions based on weights and current lamb prices.
“Normally for the suckers, we aim to sell them at about the 22kg carcase weight mark, and heavier lambs at 25kg or 26kg carcase weight,” he said.
“We’re in the JBS Farm Assurance program and they like them in the 18kg to 26kg range so we try to aim in there.”
“We’ve been selling over-the-hooks to JBS for the majority. Their price is about $7.20/kg so the market is pretty buoyant at the moment.”
Ewes are only joined once a year but first-cross lambings are spread between an autumn, winter and spring lambing.
“We mate the ewe lambs so we have to do that reasonably late and the older crossbred ewes we mate pretty early to get them off and it allows us to sell early suckers,” Tim said.
Tim says they usually achieve lambing percentages of 130pc to 140pc from their first-cross ewes and about 100pc from their Merino ewes.
The Williams have been buying Poll Dorset rams from Mike King’s Netley Park Poll stud for a decade – they also bought their Border Leicester rams there after selling their Willow Park Border Leicester stud to Mr King in 2013.