Global roaming

Location: Yerong Creek NSW

Enterprise: Cropping, prime lambs

Producer: James and Greg Male

Soil type: Red clay loam

Pasture type: Improved with predominantly lucerne

James gained a global industry focus during scholarship trips to India, Bahrain, Turkey, Ukraine, France, United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand in 2012. He also came home armed with ideas and innovations to incorporate in the mixed enterprise he runs with his brother Greg. 

“We established a feedlot four years ago as an opportunity to value-add our out-of-spec (feed) grain and for security in dry years,” James said.

“Nuffield gave me an understanding of how Australia’s global competitors and markets perceive agriculture, how crucial livestock exports are to our industry, and showed me there are real opportunities for Australian producers to optimise production of grainfed lambs.” 

The scholarship equipped James with targets to boost productivity and profitability. Here are his top 10 learnings from the year of study: 
  1. Aim for security. Forward contracts minimise price risk when trading lambs. 
  2. Research before investing. The right infrastructure, technology and handling equipment can improve efficiency and reduce stress. 
  3. Know the costs that count. James now focuses on feed costs per kilogram of liveweight gain rather than feed conversion efficiency.
  4. Think local. Source lambs that are raised locally to minimise the stress of long-distance travel, time off feed and set-backs from climate/environment changes. 
  5. Value add. A feedlot adds value to mixed enterprises. By channelling down-graded barley through the feedlot, James increased its value from $80 to $240/tonne. 
  6. Be flexible. Adapt turn-off to meet market demands and change feedlot rations depending on grain availability to reduce cost of production. 
  7. Manage performance from the start. Take particular care when inducting lambs onto a grain ration. After visiting US lamb feedlots, James is replacing self-feeders with troughs for better control of intake. 
  8. Know your margins. If grain prices are high, it might be worthwhile to sell grain instead of feeding and turn-off lambs as stores. 
  9. Learn from other’s success. The chicken meat industry has enjoyed significant genetic gains, as it focuses on one product. Instead of a dual wool/ meat focus, lamb producers should breed for genetic gains for their dominant market. 
  10. Develop productive relationships. Your agent and processor can play a key role in your business. 
James is improving feedlot efficiency in his operation by investing in low-stress sheep-handling equipment and introducing electronic identification devices to identify high-performing lines. His goal is to double throughput to 20,000 lambs/year.

Yerong Creek NSW
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