Dual-purpose Merino Winners

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Mighty Merinos: Wolseley mixed farmer Ted Ridgway says Merinos are delivering good returns year in and year out with 10 month old wether lambs, Ridgway Advance Sires, making $108 plus over hooks yearly.

Wolseley property Kesteven is the perfect example of the strong dual-purpose returns available from Merinos, particularly with buoyant lamb prices.

The area on the South Australian-Victorian border is known as an intensive cropping area, but Ted & Janette Ridgway and their son Andrew beleive sheep have a place in their mixed farming business.

Ted admits it was not always the way he saw it. "Twenty years ago, I would never have wanted to run sheep. I can't shear and am a hopeless crutcher and hated sheep work, so we were gradually reducing our sheep numbers.

In 2002, Ted and Janette bought another 810 hectares and decided to increase their flock numbers to 1100 ewes.

Much of the economic sucess of their self-replacing ewe Merino flock has come from lifting their lambing percentage from 85-90 pc to 110-130pc, including 101pc this year for their maidens.

Ted beleives the higher lambing percentages have been acheived by moving to late June/July lambing, keeping their ewes in good condition score and continuing with the fertile genetics of their Ridgway Advance rams.

The long-time Merino breeders first switched to Ridgway Advance bloodlines in 2002 after being impressed with the large-framed, plain bodied sheep they agisted during the drought for stud principles David and Karen Ridgway.

They have been regular buyers at the annual ram sale ever since and David (who is a distant relative) classes their hogget ewes each year. (offers this service to all clients).

But it was the sale of the complete line of 10-month-old Merino wether lambs in April for a $108 average which really confirmed the Ridgways' were on the right track using Ridgway Advance bloodlines

"The key to the Ridgway sheep is their big size, producing big lambs and a fair bit of meat and wool," Ted said.

On the Wool side, the Ridgways have reduced their micron from 21.5M to a 20.5M flock average, and at the same time have maintained a weighty wool cut, with their ewes cutting about 9kg.

Kesteven crops between 800 and 1000 hectares annually of wheat, canola and legumes, and Ted says the bean stubbles are particularly good for fattening lambs.

"Sheep are always there giving a return year in and year out - it is hard to make cropping work in the drier years, " he said.

"The other thing with farming is that cropping machinery depreciates about 20pc a year, but with good management if you have a 1000 Merino ewe flock in 10 years time you will still have 1000 ewes."

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