Traditionally, the first-cross ewe has always been the better prime lamb dam and Heath Bruckner said interest during the annual sales was an indication producers still preferred them to join to terminal sires.
“I am just meeting the market which is there … more people want first-cross ewes than any other breed,” he said.
Station-bred Merino ewes are the basis of the first-cross ewe breeding operation conducted by the Bruckner family based at “Gnadbro”, Collingullie.
“We join 15,000 Merino ewes to Border Leicester rams from Cadell (Border Leicester stud),” Mr Bruckner said.
“The ewes are primarily from ‘Tupra’ and we have been very happy with them.”
Mr Bruckner said he liked western-bred ewes for their length and straightness of body.
“They are cutting a 19- to 20-micron fleece and are a big ewe,” he said.
“We have had up to 138 per cent lambs so they need to be able to rear them.”
The ewes are scanned and any dry sheep are rejoined.
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Cadell rams have been sourced for many years and rams are purchased on visual assessment concentrating on length of body and good wool.
“I think you want first-cross ewes with length and a straight body,” Mr Bruckner said.
“Obviously with first-cross ewes going into Victoria,they don’t want any wrinkles and the ewes must be ‘roomy’ for lambing to terminal sires.”
The wether lambs are all sold ‘over-the-hooks’ at 22 to 26 kilograms dressed for the local trade.
The production of first-cross ewes for sale commenced in the late 1970s as part of the overall enterprise mix on “Gnadbro”.
“We got out of running Merinos after the wool crash in the late 1980s and we moved slowly to concentrating on cattle before we crept back to sheep in the late 1990s.”
Mr Bruckner said numbers have steadily increased since that time in response to increasing demand for prime lamb dams on the back of rising meat prices.
“Gnabro” will offer 5000 one and half year first-cross ewes on September 19, 3000 ewes for sale next January, and 5000 in September.