Farming is in the blood for Megan and Michael Brennan, Wambangalang, Toongi, New South Wales, with Megan a fifth-generation producer.
While she only recently took up farming full time on the 680-hectare property 30 kilometres south of Dubbo, agriculture had been a long-time interest. Her father Mark Gavel moved to the Dubbo region in the 1980s concentrating on the production of Poll Dorset-cross prime lambs.
Poll Dorsets continue to feature heavily in the production of prime lambs from their 1000-head ewe flock, comprised of first-cross ewes and Dohnes. “Our prime lamb enterprise is the focus of our operation,” Megan said.
“I love producing really good prime lambs. I love the production side of farming, and seeing the effort we put in come through with the stock we produce. We continue to use Poll Dorsets as they are consistently the most profitable. The Poll Dorset second-cross lambs do better on-farm, so they look better at market and sell very well. They are consistent and reliable – you know what you’re going to get and that it’ll be good.
“My dad was a woolgrower at Condobolin until 1981, before moving to the Dubbo region and switching to prime lamb production, using Poll Dorset sires. I’m doing what I know best, and Poll Dorsets continue to allow us to produce quality lambs, that sell well in the marketplace.”
The Brennans have bought flock rams from Ridgehaven Poll Dorset Stud, Cudal, for the past 14 years.
“Our results have been what sends us back,” Megan said. “We buy flock rams and they perform extremely well, we’ve had lambing percentages up to 167 per cent in the first-cross ewe flock, they are rarely below 130pc. We’ve also had lambs weighing up to 37.6 kilograms dressweight at 11 months of age.”
Ewes lambs in August to September, and are marketed in February to June at the local saleyards, the Dubbo Regional Livestock Markets.
“We generally always sell through Dubbo, it’s so close and a good market with a full complement of buyers,” she said.
The Brennans target a minimum weight of 22kgdw before lambs are sold, and ensure lambs are drafted more than once to ensure consistency and evenness in the lines they market. Lambs are started and finished on lucerne pastures, with access to high-quality oats in feeders.
“We aim for consistency,” Megan said. “We want to produce high numbers and high quality lambs.”
The Brennans have only been at Wambangalang since 2013, and have only just built up their flock to its full carrying capacity. While they were producing 880 lambs a year, they now expect to produce up to 1300 lambs.
“I initially came back to the region to help run mum and dad’s farm in 2003 when I was in my mid-30s,” Megan said. “My parents wanted to ‘trial’ retirement at Maroochydore, Queensland, and in the meantime, I met and married a Dubbo boy, Michael, who really loved farming although his family owned a hardware shop.
“When my parents eventually decided that they did want to retire and sold the property, we bought 283ha of their 809ha property, we also leased a 688ha farm for the last two years before we sold up in 2013 to buy Wambangalang. A local mine decided to buy our portion of the farm, so we bought Wambangalang, which was 5-8km up the road and gradually moved over.”
While she had a background as a teacher, Megan said she had mainly worked in administration, which had helped with book keeping and planning on-farm. She had learnt a lot from working alongside her father.
“They are definitely skills which have helped with the book work and planning ahead,” she said. “Working with dad has also helped a lot. I try to take the best from other people, try to keep your mind open. Similar to taking my dad’s advice – Ridgehaven look after us with quality rams and advice as they want to see us do well, as much as we do. So, we have good advice and we buy quality.”
When it came to sheep and lamb health, Megan said it was important to keep on top of worms, in particular Barber’s pole worm. She had completed a course and had her own microscope so was able to check and monitor faecal egg counts. If worms were present, samples were sent off for identification.
“I check them every second month or before they are moved to a new paddock,” she said.
Sheep are run on a mix of natural and improved pastures, planted to lucerne, subclovers, submedics and tropical grasses. The Brennans also crop 242 to 324 hectares, producing and selling high-quality feed oats and run 60 Angus and Poll Hereford breeding cows.