Friday, July 1, 2022

Ambitious goal

The McGurk family have set themselves an ambitious goal, to finish 60% of lambs straight off their mothers. Three years into farming their new property in the Ruakituri Valley, John McGurk admits it could be a tough target to meet, maybe even a little too ambitious. They would continue striving to achieve that goal for three main reasons – milk lambs yield higher, lamb schedules were typically higher around weaning time, and it gave the high fertility breeding ewes more opportunity to gain condition before mating. John and Linda, who farm in conjunction with eldest son Brent, bought Te Awa in winter 2010. Included in the sale was a high-quality Romney ewe flock – the previous owners ran a Romney stud.

Set-stocking rates:

Ewe hoggets:10/ha

Single ewes: 10/ha

Twinning ewes: 7/ha

Triplet ewes: 6/ha.

They now run about 600 Romney ewes and 1500 East Friesian-Romney ewes (mixed-age and two-tooth).

Crossbred ewes are mated to a Romney ram and the Romney ewes to an East Friesian-Romney ram.

John said Romney genetics helped build good constitution in the wet, northern Hawke’s Bay hill country.

In their first season on Te Awa, the farm was over-stocked. Most lambs were sold store that year. Store prices happened to be high at the time, but John said they tried to avoid selling store where possible.

Last year’s lambs were weaned earlier, in December, because the dry conditions were forcing ewes and lambs to compete.

Trucking lambs at weaning is challenging. The woolshed and main sheep yards are 3km away from the loading facilities.

“It’s going to be a lot tougher to meet our 60% off mum target here because of the infrastructure,” John said.

“It cuts down the risk of that winter shearing period,” John said.

The McGurks sell their wool directly off-farm instead of at auction.

Lambs are drenched monthly and most of the ewes are given Genesis Ultra (which also covers barber’s poll) in February or March to combat liver fluke, which can be an issue in wetter country.

The tail-end ewes are taken off two to three times between January and March. After a drench, they are moved on to some better grass and if they don’t lift to condition score three or better, they’ll move into the terminal mob.

John said drafting off tail-end ewes was certainly worth the effort, but they still needed to work on improving ewe feeding during lactation.

“Our objectives are still to try to produce as many kilograms of lamb as possible.

“Sixty percent straight off mum might be a bit ambitious. Getting rid of half off their mums is achievable in this type of country.”

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