The view from my verandah - Grant & Annette Burbidge
28 August 2015
Grant and Annette Burbidge run a 20,000-head self-replacing Merino flock on 1,600ha between Tarcutta and Tumbarumba on the south-west slopes of NSW.
In this series where producers share their current challenges and the strategies to manage and grow their business, Grant shares his philosophy to lift productivity and profitability on a per hectare, rather than per head, basis.
The Burbidges’ current production targets are to increase the number of wethers to 35% of the flock (with 45% being ewes and the remainder weaners) and to decrease wool micron while increasing fleece weight.
How do you manage genetics to reach these targets?
We search the MERINOSELECT database to choose AI sires which are top-performing in our own selection index. We created this index in consultation with a geneticist, to reflect our specific enterprise goals. We aim to produce a medium framed animal – a 48kg ewe in condition score three. We used the decision support tool, Grassgro , to model the performance of different framed animals and found that a smaller framed animal is more productive and profitable in our enterprise. Larger animals carry a higher maintenance cost which can erode any additional income generated by increased meat production.
How do you support good genetics with good management?
I don’t believe there are any silver bullets in livestock production, but there are strategies which have a big impact on profitability and productivity. In our business this includes pasture utilisation. We target an optimum stocking rate of 15 DSE/ha average (18-20 DSE/ha on improved pastures). Soil fertility is important so we test every paddock, every year. We fertilise phalaris and sub clover in March, prior to the autumn break. We use drought lots to feed stock and protect pastures during dry periods.
What’s on the cards this time of the year?
We just finished crutching and pre-lambing vaccinations. We lamb from 20 August, so that is the main focus at the moment. In recent years, we have brought lambing forward by a week in response to climate change. We joined 11,000 ewes this year. This year, we also tightened our joining period from five to three weeks, to reduce lambing numbers as we focus on changing the flock structure. Shearing starts soon, we begin with wethers and hoggets in September and run through to December.
What other challenges do you face?
One of the biggest constraints to our business is one that is out of our control - internet speed. We are on the NBN satellite – we have good connection in the morning but by the afternoon through to the evening it too congested to use. We have limited upload/download capacity which makes it difficult to run a business. We need more mobile 'phone towers to improve rural communication.
What specific tools/resources/courses are you using or undertaking to help deal with any of these short and long term challenges?
We use several decision support tools throughout the year. These include:
- Rainfall to Pasture Growth Outlook tool to assess potential pasture growth.
- GrazFeed to calculate energy and protein requirements.
- GrassGro to make strategic enterprise decisions, such as changing lambing time.
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