THIS year Graham Wallace will celebrate his 50th year working on the Cowra property Melrose, and now has another string to his bow after winning the second Mid Lachlan Flock Merino Ewe Competition following their runner-up placing in the inaugural event last year.
Described as breeding very productive commercial sheep with uncomplicated skins, the self-replacing Merino flock is among 5200 ewes joined annually by the Wallace family on Melrose and another leased property totalling 1900 hectares in the Cowra district.
The mixed-farming Merino, prime lamb and cropping family enterprise is jointly run between Graham and Maureen Wallace, their son, Adam and his wife, Sarah and family.
While Adam admits he concentrates on the cropping side of the business with Graham and himself sharing the sheep side, the flock’s success has been largely due to Graham’s influence up until recent years.
“The Merino flock began on Wonga blood followed later by Rossmore and Pastora,” Adam Wallace side.
“The past four years have had an addition of Lach River blood.”
Competition judges were Ben Simmons, Leadville, who runs Talbragar Border Leicester stud and works full-time at Langdene stud, Dunedoo, and Will Roberts, Victoria Downs stud, Morven, Queensland.
Both were most impressed with the type and white well-nourished wool of the maiden ewes and wethers displayed at Melrose located between Morongla and Wattamondara, south of Cowra.
They judged 13 flocks in two days split into western and eastern sections attracting some 70 visitors each day.
Mr Roberts said the Melrose ewes had great nourishment in their wools and exhibited all the commercial characteristics.
The 1160 Melrose bred 2017 drop ewes on display had been retained from a 35 per cent cull at classing by Graham Wallace with assistance from Lach River co-principals, Richard and Brad Chalker.
“We joined 2050 Merino ewes to Merino rams and another 3000 classed-out ewes in the whole flock to White Suffolk rams,” Adam Wallace said.
The Merino flock has fined-up the micron to an average 18.2 while skirted adult ewe fleeces average 7.5 kilograms.
“Our maidens were first shorn in February 2018 and again in July at six months and cut fleeces averaging 4.3kg,” he said.
Their brothers sold to gross $215 a head last year.
“We shore them and then fattened them to dress out at 24.7kg when sold last February,” he said.
Mr Wallace puts their lambing percentages of 132pc down to fertility.
“We don’t give anything a second chance,” he said.
October joining begins with Merino rams for five weeks, then after a two week break, White Suffolk rams are introduced.
Any dry ewes detected at scanning are sold off.
Ewes retained for the crossbreeding program, which are kept from classing, are joined to the White Suffolks.
Twinners are treated like gold, according to Mr Wallace.
“We continue drifting into small mobs for lambing in March, then lambs are moved onto grazing cereal crops by the end of May,” he said.
“We sow grazing wheat and oats and some canola as early as we can to enable grazing up to the end of September in good years.”
Mr Wallace said he aimed to crop between 570 hectares to 730 hectares each year and 80pc were used as grazing crops.
“We don’t worry about frosts and sow as early as we can,” he said.
“The main wheat variety is morumbi as it’s beardless and makes good hay.
“Harvest last year yielded 2t/ha, but we got a bit of green feed out of it.
“We aim to turn crossbred lambs off at five-to-six months for the local trade market while Merino wethers are marketed by 11 months.”
The Melrose flock also won the western section, fine wool, short wool and flock over 500 ewes during the Mid Lachlan competition.
Runner-up was the Johnston family, Milburn Creek, Woodstock, winner of the eastern section and medium wool flock with Milburn/Centreplus blood.
The long wool flock award went to the Webster family, Catalina, Morongla, with ewes of Grassy Creek blood.
Winner of the flock under 500 ewes was the Rutledge family’s Narong Partnership, Watervale, Woodstock, based on Lachlan Merino blood.
Encouragement award was presented to Luke Cosgrove, Glenrock, Greenthorpe, based on Thalaba/Lach River blood.