The view from my verandah - Paul Mibus

14 August 2015

Victorian producer Paul Mibus runs a cropping and sheep enterprise in partnership with his father, Noel, on their 800ha property, south-west of Dunkeld.

In this series where producers share their current challenges and the strategies to manage and grow their business, Paul shares his sheep production goals and how he is following local producer driven research to learn more.

What are your production targets?

We have our sights set on 90% lambing from the Poll Merinos and well over 100% from the Dohne-cross, through genetic selection for fertility. We also plan on changing the flock composition to 1,000 Poll Merino ewes and 1,000 Dohne-cross ewes. Our goal is to produce a dual-purpose sheep with nice wool, good mothering traits and heavier wethers.

Changing our genetics will allow us to run a more dual-purpose animal which will cut more wool, have increased fertility and faster growth rates, and be more resilient and easy-care.

What are some of the main challenges you face in your region, and how are you tackling them?

The weather is a big challenge. We used to lamb in August, but the weather can be harsh and there is minimal grass available for lactating ewes. A couple of years ago, we pushed lambing back to September and have seen the results, with lambing rates increasing from 65% to around 80%. It makes sense to lamb when the feed wedge is taking off.

We crop on raised beds to avoid water damage. We rotate canola, wheat, then sow lupins into the wheat stubble. After harvesting lupins, we give the soil a light till with a Speed Tiller and reform the beds.

What other changes have you made in your business, to increase productivity?

We traditionally ran a super-fine wool flock (16.5 micron), but are transitioning to a dual-purpose animal to target more markets. We are selecting Poll Merino and Dohne genetics to increase fertility and carcase traits, while still producing 17 micron wool.

Breeding a bigger framed sheep will allow us to easier sell Merino wethers as lambs, if we want, as they grow and mature quicker than the sheep we currently run. In addition, terminal lambs from Poll Merino and Dohne ewes will mature quicker, allowing a faster turnaround from weaning to slaughter. We can also aim for a premium mutton market when selling older sheep (18-24kg dressed weight), whereas previously a large percentage of cast-for-age sheep would fall outside this range.

What role do dual-purpose crops play in your business?

We are trialling dual-purpose canola for a Southern Farming Systems project. We sowed Taurus canola in November, then planted 15ha of Clearfield Edimax in autumn. We sowed the Taurus dry, but received 20mm rain in January which enabled us to start grazing on 21 April.

We ran 225 head (175 lambs, 50 ewes) on the canola for six weeks, and they gained an average of 250g/head/day. We expect to harvest 2-2.5 tonnes/ha, so the dual-purpose canola allows us to finish lambs during a feed gap, without taking a yield hit at harvest.

Are there any management challenges with dual-purpose canola?

It’s a very hardy plant, but we are careful to not over-graze to maintain plant numbers. Grazing the canola with a large mob (around 200 head) for four to six weeks works best for us, allowing even grazing over the paddock with minimal areas over grazed. Allowing the canola to regrow for four to six weeks after stock are removed may provide a second and maybe even a third grazing provided there is sufficient moisture to allow for the required growth. We apply urea to the canola in July, desiccate with glyphosate in November and direct-head in December.

What is happening on-farm at this time of year?

We are giving ewes their pre-lambing drench and vaccine in preparation for lambing from late August. We would usually be spraying broadleaf weeds and ryegrass in the wheat and lupins, but 5mm of rain has delayed that.

We spread nitrogen test strips each year, so are just keeping an eye on those to see if we need to put out some more urea. Looking ahead, we are gearing up for lambing and spraying fungicides in September.

What is on the cards for the next year?

I want to start pregnancy scanning our ewes to identify twins/triplets/dry ewes and manage them accordingly.

What are some of the tools which guide your on-farm decision making?

Southern Farming Systems:  I am on the Hamilton branch committee and we often host trials. It’s an opportunity to access local research results

Lifetime Ewe Management  (LTEM): We have been involved in a LTEM course for the past two years, which has really reinforced the science behind management decisions such as nutrition.

More information

Paul Mibus E: pjmibus@bigpond.com

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