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Courtesy of Countryman

A passion for high-performance Poll Dorset genetics, and a proven farm business formula continue to keep Walkaway breeder Randal Levett in the WA Meat Marketing Co-operative winners’ circle.

Mr Levett was awarded for his “lighter than usual” crossbred lambs in WAMMCO’s hotly contested Producer of the Month competition in March.

Mr Levett entered a line of 543 Poll Dorset/Merino cross lambs from his family’s Tipperary Farm.

The crossbreds were 1kg lighter than usual at 22.6kg, but returned $183.82/head to win in the March contest. An impressive 98.71 per cent of the lambs in the draft achieved top ranking.

A bigger line of 886 Tipperary crossbred lambs last won the WAMMCO award for March 2007.

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That mob of crossbreds was also finished on white lupin stubbles, with the 2007 draft weighing an average of 24.91kg/head and went under contract at $3.31/kg to return $82.40/head, with 76.3 per cent grading in the premium category. Freight costs from Walkaway to WAMMCO, at Katanning, were a factor in 2007 at around $6/head — more like $8 per head today.

The lighter weight at turn-off in this year followed a tight season last year boosted by a white lupin stubble finish — in line with a farming plan set down in the mid-1990s.

“In fact, apart from regular genetic improvement within the stud and ewe flocks, and regular fine tuning to suit seasons and markets, the sheep and cropping operation has not changed much at all,” Mr Levett said.

His win was still sinking in as news of new Chinese tariffs on WA grain and other negative news hit the rural sector, just before a devastating coastal wind-storm displaced big tracts of newly seeded topsoil.

Mr Levett estimated his re-seeding bill covered about 1500ha.

He believes WA growers can appreciate the ongoing stability of their meat industry and moves, particularly by WAMMCO, to upgrade processing capacity to meet new market opportunities.

Mr Levett believes that as meat markets continue to respond to political and economic changes, both at home and overseas, assets such as WAMMCO’s new mutton boning room at Katanning would be increasingly paying their way.

From a WAMMCO standpoint, producers were more dependent today on their exporters and processors for feedback that enabled them to identify market and product changes and opportunities.

“We are looking forward to the new data flow from WAMMCO’s DEXA recording system and are already gearing to use electronic tags and other devices to streamline our management,” Mr Levett said.

He runs the Tipperary enterprise with his wife Kristy, their daughter Blaise, eight, and son Callum, six, with a part-time farm hand and help from his parents, Derek and Sheryl Levett.

“We had been sourcing Poll Dorset rams over many years, but it got serious in 1997 when we formed the Tipperary Poll Dorset stud,” Mr Levett said. “We have since worked with performance studs from NSW, Victoria, WA, and Tasmania.”

More recently Mr Levett paid $25,000 to Ulandi Park, of South Australia, for their top ram 137-17.

Last year, Mr Levett moved to consolidate Tipperary’s breeding base with the purchase of the Woodgrove stud, at Northampton. This boosted the supply of replacement rams for the 6000-ewe, mainly Merino, commercial breeding flock, but also lifted the stud Poll Dorset ewe base to more than 800.

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Walkaway sheep producer Randal Levett with WAMMCO supply development manager Rob Davidson. Credit: WAMMCO