Domestic Lamb

Charitable drought and cyclone survivors top Tamworth lamb show

Sheep Central, September 4, 2019

Angus and Claudia Kirton with their winning pen of lambs at the Tamworth Spring Lamb Show. Image – Michelle Mawhinney

TAMWORTH’S popular spring lamb show has been won by first-time entrants Claudia Kirton and her father Angus in an impressive display of lamb finishing under trying seasonal conditions.

Yesterday, after one of the worst droughts on record and a devastating cyclone that smashed their property on New Years’ Eve, 11 year-old Claudia took centre stage at the Tamworth Regional Livestock Exchange surrounded by some of the industry’s best producers, buyers and livestock agents.

Angus and his daughter were awarded the JV Goodwin Memorial Shield for the champion pen of lambs – 48 12 month-old Poll Dorset-first cross lambs that were estimated to dress out at about 44kg and sold by agents Davidson Cameron for $346 to Fletcher International Exports. The Kirtons second pen of lambs that averaged 100kg liveweight (48kg cwt) sold for $340, also to Fletchers. Their heaviest lamb weighed in at 108kg.

The TLSAA award the JV Goodwin Memorial Shield each year in memory of the late Jason Goodwin an industry ambassador and auctioneer who passed away from a heart attack in 2008 at the age of 36. The shield bears the names of a ‘who’s who’ of the district’s top producers.

Angus Kirton said the winning 92kg liveweight lambs were specifically targeted at the show and on feed all year, adding that “they were very different to a commercial enterprise, at a considerable cost to produce, but it was really a project for Claudia and something to focus on in the drought.”

As part of their prize, the Kirton family also pocketed cash and product prizes from various sponsors and, in a remarkable display of generosity, then donated $1000 to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Davidson Cameron agent Simon Burke says that it was a fantastic result given what the Walcha family have been through.

“After the cyclone on New Year’s Eve their property looked like a war zone – I’ve never seen carnage like it.

“On top of that, they’ve had a horrendous drought,” he said.

“So for them to win and then make a significant donation to the WRHS, really is testimony to the calibre of people they are,” he said.

Angus said the show also gave him the opportunity to assess the potential of his lambs. Only two of the lambs were pulled out before entry due to erupting teeth.

“You can grow them out to 100kg, so that’s pretty good to know.”

The Kirtons were previously ultrafine wool growers at Walcha and were in the process of transferring to a first cross ewe-based prime lamb operation aiming for lambs around 25kg cwt, after suffering through years of poor wool prices, when the drought hit.

“If you look at the growth or demand curve for lamb over the last 30-40 years, it is just a gradual increase.

“It has its peaks and troughs, but it is nothing like the dog-tail of the wool industry.”

The Kirtons are currently running 2000 first cross ewes and aiming for 4000, but growth has been hampered by “one of the worst seasons you could possibly wish for.” All their Merino ewes were sold this year, two years earlier than expected, and the funds used to retain and feed first cross breeders and sale lambs.

“It’s dreadful up here.”

Angus said with the Walcha area only receiving about two thirds of its usual annual rainfall for the past four years, feeding sheep in containment areas has been an education.

“Last year we had just over half our annual rainfall and this year is probably going to be less than that at the moment, but fingers crossed it isn’t.”

The show lambs were fed on a ration of wheat-based pellets, barley and roughage in the form of haylage.

“They started to tail off in their weight gain about two months ago; they dropped down to the mid-200 grams a day, then we used some lucerne with the haylage and we went back up over 300gms a day.

“The value that is in the animals at the moment has enabled people to feed, as opposed to what it would have been in any other drought – an absolute bloodbath wouldn’t it?”

Angus said he will continue to aim to get his lambs into the winter market, but would love to do it on grass.

“We are meant to grow grass to grow sheep and if we can grow crops through the winter, like ryegrass or whatever it may be for the lamb job, it is so much more profitable and involves less time.”

The Kirtons run western bred first cross ewes sourced from Charlie Tuck at Narromine which are joined with Poll Dorset rams from the Old Woombi stud at Walcha and the Abelene Park stud at Woolamin.

Medium trade winners weaned onto lucerne

Bernie and Paul McCulloch from Garoo won the medium trade section at the Tamworth Spring Lamb Show. Image – Michelle Mawhinney

The medium trade category (45-49.5kg) at the Tamworth show was won by Bernard, Courtney, Paul and Elaine McCulloch, Ripley Pastoral Co, Garoo and Janet Anderson, Bobby Byrne, Garoo won the light trade (40-44.5kg) category.

Bernie and Paul said that although the nine inches of rain they’ve had this year is well below their annual their average of 28 inches, some storms in early March meant they could get some crop out of the ground. Their winning pen of first cross lambs were weaned onto lucerne and then oats and haven’t seen any grain.

Andrew Jackson, Thomas Foods International was one of three judges and said that the drought “has taught people how to feed – and that is the biggest by-product of the drought.”

The show was sponsored by TLSAA, the Goodwin family, Abelene Park, North West Direct Sales, TRLX and Corey’s Catering.

Source: Michelle Mawhinney,Tamworth Livestock Selling Agents Association.


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