DOHNE sheep are proving the profitable key in two vertically integrated lamb enterprises in the southern Riverina of New South Wales.
Integrated agri-food company Rivalea Australia operates a 7000 head lamb feedlot on its 4000ha Balpool Station at Moulamein.
In the same region, the Peat family is finishing Dohne lambs on saltbush at Bunnaloo, processing them at its Riverside Meat plant at Echuca and selling the product under the Three Rivers Speciality Meats brand.
Information on both enterprises was outlined to delegates at the inaugural Global Dohne Conference at Dubbo on July 21-22.
Merinos to Dohnes for fertility and animal welfare
Rivalea agricultural manager Barry Hutton made a switch from a Merino to an 800-ewe Dohne flock in 2010 to reduce flystrike and eliminate mulesing. He said a corporate decision was made on animal welfare grounds to cease mulesing.
Lambing percentages were lifted from 90pc in the Merino flock to 120pc in the Dohnes, with virtually nil flystrike and the elimination of crutching. The shearing interval has been swung to six monthly, with ewes shorn a month out from lambing to yield 2.5kg of clean wool.
“The Dohne lambs have well and truly met our expectations – we have been able to achieve breeding objectives and benchmarks, and have received a good response from the abattoir,’’ Mr Hutton said.
The Dohne lambs enter the feedlot at 35-37kg liveweight and are fed over 42 days to finish at 25kg carcass weight. They are grazed at a density of 1000 in a 15ha lucerne paddocks, and fed a ration of barley and mineral mix in self-feeders. They consume an average of 855 grams a day at a daily cost of 28 cents.
“On the ethical side, we have moved away from pen to paddock feeding, and include access to shade.
“Our Dohne lambs are sitting on feed conversion rates of 4kg (for every 1kg of grain fed) or below,’’ Mr Hutton said.
“We sold October shorn lambs on March 1 for 25kg dressed and received a skin price of $22.25.’’
Mr Hutton said a goal was to be finishing 20,000 lambs within two years.
Value-adding Dohnes on saltbush
Another Riverina sheep producer with a vertically integrated enterprise, Bruce Peat, of Echuca, is value adding to Dohne lambs finished on saltbush.
Mr Peat told conference delegates he runs 500 lambs in 48ha blocks of saltbush, and supplemented with barley, mineral mix and silage. Average daily gains are 350 grams across the 45-50 day feed period.
Mr Peat has been impressed with the Dohne’s easy care traits, fertility and mothering ability. He said the continued challenge of the wholesale meat industry was the catalyst for his company Riverside Meats to explore new ways to market lamb.
The family launched a branded saltbush Dohne product, Three Rivers Specialty Meats, earlier this year.
“When we started marketing the lamb, we didn’t know where it would take us,’’ Mr Peat said.
“The comments we get is it is a sweet meat with no lanolin taste or fattiness, and a lot of the chefs have been using the fat in their sauces to bring out the flavour.
“We are not big operators – we process about 5000 lambs a week so have to do something different to be rewarded for what we do,” he said.
“The Dohne has been good to us and the benefits have been enormous.’’
Three Rivers Specialty Meats has been nominated for the Delicious Magazine produce awards.
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