The past three years have been a nice ride for prime lamb producers with stock at times hitting record highs week in, week out.
While this has been a handy time for studs hosting sell-out ram sales, it has also been an ideal situation for those on the maternal side of the industry.
Producing first-cross ewes has been the focus at the Bruckner family’s Gnadbro Pastoral Com-pany at Collingullie near Wagga Wagga for the past 15 years.
This September will mark their 10th anniversary on-property sale, with brothers Doug and Heath Bruckner to offer 5000 first-cross ewes, a record number for their enterprise.
There will be 4700 14- to 16-month-old first-cross ewes and 300 12-month-old ewes for sale on the day.
The commercial operators hold their sale about the same time as the major first-cross ewe sales in the region including Barellan, Temora, and Narrandera.
The sale has strong support from buyers across the country with sheep last year sold to Tasmania, Victoria and NSW.
Doug Bruckner said he received interest from buyers from a wide area with a lot of people coming on sale day just to see what the market was doing.
They have had a total clearance of all their ewes each year, however, they know their coming sale will be a test as they have more numbers on offer.
Last year they sold 4100 first-cross ewes for a top price of $258 – the best price Gnadbro had ever achieved, for an average of $226.
The best sale average they received was in 2010 when a line of their first-cross ewes sold for an average of $229 and a top price of $248.
“Gnadbro” is the nursery for the enterprise where the Merino ewes are joined and run in mobs of 500 to 600 ewes with the average lambing paddock size 120 to 160 hectares.
The ewes lamb down in May with the first-cross lambs shorn and vaccinated at “Gnadbro” and then trucked out to western properties, “Epsom Downs” and “Waterloo” north of Conargo, as weaners.
At the western properties the first-cross ewes are all run in one mob in paddocks that are 1200 to 1600 hectares in size.
“We keep them all together as this gives them an even finish by the time the sale comes around in September,” Mr Bruckner said.
The May 2011-drop (1.5-year-old) first-cross ewes Gnadbro will offer at its annual sale will have an average bodyweight of 65 kilograms.
“They seem to do better out west; even for crossbreds, they seem to like the open country where they can forage,” Mr Bruckner said.
Mr Bruckner said they know from a Merino buyers perspective how hard it is to buy big lines of sheep with one mark.
“We like to produce an animal with all the aspects that we look for when we buy Merinos,” he said.
Gnadbro caters for producers that want big lines of ewes and those that want smaller runs; the minimum is a truck deck – 125 head.
The Bruckners ensure their buyers are getting their money’s worth, with the sheep shorn in late July, six to seven weeks prior to the sale.
The first-cross ewes were shorn by a team of six shearers led by the Bruckner’s uncles Steve and Dave McPherson, from Wagga Wagga.
“We want the sheep to look polished for the sale; if people are paying $250 for a ewe they want it shorn well,” Doug Bruckner said.
“Our shearers are not chasing a tally, it is about getting nice clean blows.”
The ewes were vaccinated with Gudair and drenched off the board and went on to 4000ha of fresh country on the western properties after they were shorn.
This is the first year the Bruckners have vaccinated with Gudair ahead of the sale.
“We recognise that people from certain areas need their stock Gudair’d regardless of their status, so we have invested in that pre-sale treatment so more producers can participate on sale day,” Mr Bruckner said.
To have the first-cross ewes in tip-top shape for sale day they will be brought back to “Gnadbro” in early September where they will be drafted into several lines, scanned empty and plunge dipped.
The Bruckners were concerned they would have too many ewes at their sale so they sold some privately via AuctionsPlus at 10 months of age in early autumn.
The Bruckners are glad they have stayed with sheep and expanded their enterprise into the western Riverina.
“The country back home (Collingullie) has got very dear and stitched up with cropping and out here (Conargo north) we have a bit of irrigation,” Mr Bruckner said.
It is only 200 kilometres between “Gnadbro” and “Epsom Downs” with a return freight cost of about $3 a head.
“The freight charge isn’t too bad when you are getting $150/hd to $200/hd for the ewe,” Mr Bruckner said.
The Bruckners are in the midst of their heaviest stocking period at the moment with 28,000 head on their aggregation, including 11,500 Merino ewes, their lambs, and 5000 first-cross ewes waiting to be sold.
They also winter crop 2800ha at “Gnadbro” and employ three full time staff.
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