• Why Choose Heathfield Poll Merinos

Very profitable sheep

In any grazing business three basic principles generate gross income from stock:

  • Quantity and quality of product you have to sell
  • Price you can get for that product, and
  • Your carrying capacity

When Steve was 18 and looking for guidance and direction to breed his sheep he met Peter Westblade.  Peter was ahead of his time in many ways – a far-sighted, innovative and successful Stud Poll Merino Breeder.  He was also an inspiring sheep classer and a mentor to many.

Peter put his thoughts on breeding sheep very simply to Steve, “Mate, we have to breed them fine, have them cutting plenty of wool, and having plenty of lambs.”

So that set the breeding direction on Heathfield, which hasn’t varied over time.  We have fine tuned around the edges but know the most profitable Merino businesses prioritise these three areas.

Our Sheep

We believe the most important aspect of breeding is having a deep ewe base.  Our priority has always been to measurably improve our genetic base through our ewes.  This includes refining carcass traits as well as being great wool producers – a truly balanced sheep.  We are not just selling rams, we are selling the genetic package to breed a superior ewe base.  We are about the whole – not just producing a pretty ram.

Our wool averages 17 micron and can be slightly stronger or slightly finer depending on seasonal conditions.

Our ewes produce long stapled, elite quality fleeces, and on average cut 6 to 6.4 kg fleeceweight per head annually, with wool yields around 70 to 73% on average.

Our long term lambings have averaged 108% lambs born to ewes joined, and weanings have been very close to this figure.  AT least 70% of our ewes fall in lamb in their first reproductive cycle.

Our ewes on average weigh 58 to 60 kilograms off shears in condition score 3, which we believe is a sweet spot in our environment for efficiency, profitability and ease of handling.

Our sheep are supplementary fed as little as possible.  They have learned to pack their own lunch and have do-ability.  They will also excel if run under high input type management.

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Versatility

Our sheep are versatile. Wether lambs give the option of being fed and turned off as prime lambs (at 12 months after cutting a valuable fleece), or they can be let trickle along (grown out over a longer period of time, be very profitable as wool cutters, then sold later in life at generally around 2/3 the price of a good prime lamb).  We know there are bloodlines concerned mainly with early growth that don’t have the ability to be kept profitability as wool cutters at older ages – being broader in micron and cutting less fleeceweight and being less efficient from a DSE per hectare point of view.

We think the most profitable business is to run straight merino operations, but where terminal sires are used our ewes have the ability to turn off excellent heavy-weight prime lambs.

Points to Consider

  • Our sheep aren’t traditional types and they challenge the general perception of what fine wool sheep are. They cut as much or more as many sheep 2 to 3 microns strongerand receive the fine end market premiums.
  • Micron is the most important quality in determining the price of wool. There is always a premium for finer wool.
  • Being long-stapled our sheep can fit into 6 or 8 month shearing programs.
  • The elite type of our wool also helps gain the market premiums, and we often top our broker’s catalogue when our wool is auctioned.
  • Having wools of elite qualities makes for a sheep that combs well and is easy to shear, as well as being fly resistant, especially to body strike in wet summers.