Richard and Victoria Gorman’s success in this year’s Westpac and Bayleys Marlborough Sheep and Beef Farmer of the Year competition comes down to one simple factor – feed.
It is their ability to feed stock consistently well throughout the year that allows them to realise the genetic potential of their Landmark composite ewes. This drives productivity and profitability and ensures their business is generating a strong financial performance year-on-year.
The Gorman’s Dumgree is a 770ha hill country farm near Blenheim. With an annual rainfall of around 700mm, their farm system has been set-up to grow and sell lambs as quickly as possible so they can look after their capital breeding stock through the summer dry period.
Lucerne is a critical part of their operation and 160ha platform of the forage essentially drives their business. Coupled with the subterranean clover endemic in their hill country pastures, lucerne drives lactation and pre-weaning growth rates averaging 315gms/day.
The Gorman’s ewes are large- going to the ram weighing around 76kg- but Richard says they need to run large ewes to get the large, fast-growing lambs they require in their summer-dry environment.
“We need to have lambs that grow really fast and we can only do that with a good-size ewe,” says Richard.
These mixed-age ewes are lambing between 145-150 per cent and Richard believes they have the potential to be consistently lambing as much as 160 per cent.
Richard and Victoria sell 72 per cent of their lambs finished straight off their mothers. They begin skim-drafting their lambs in November to a minimum of 38kg liveweight and all lambs are weaned by 15 December. At this stage the drafting weight is reduced to 34kg liveweight.
Depending on the season and feed availability, remaining lambs are either sold store or finished on lucerne or summer brassica-but the couple will not compromise the performance of their capital breeding stock by struggling to finish all of their lambs in a dry season.
Blenheim-based vet, competition judge and Stockcare consultant Peter Anderson says the Dumgree ewes are producing 52kg of lamb per ewe mated. This measure of efficiency puts the Gorman’s 6kg of lamb per ewe mated ahead of the top quartile of farmers in the nationwide StockCare programme.
Pasture covers critical at lambing
Richard, who was part of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s North Canterbury Sheep for Profit Partnership programme, says one of the most important management strategies he learnt through the programme was the importance of having good forage covers to lamb on.
“Set-stocking on good covers will give us good lamb survival and then high lamb growth rates through to drafting.”
Richard defines good covers as 1600kg DM/ha – or a minimum of 150mm for lucerne – and it is critical that mixed-age ewes are set-stocked lightly- at just 3-4 mixed-age ewes/ha -so covers won’t be mined over that lambing period.
If plant growth rates are slow in that early spring period, the Gorman’s will use nitrogen to boost covers and in a particularly growthy year, they will set-stock the ewes earlier, up to 10 days before lambing.