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Luck hasn’t exactly been with Bourke graziers, Tim and Linda Oldfield, with bushfire wiping out 60,000 acres in 2012, and drought since. But one decision has paid off – their decision to buy rams from Kerin Poll.

“We were looking for a more fertile, quicker-growing sheep, and I think we’ve got that in spades,” Tim says. “We were just so happy with the Kerin Poll sheep – Nigel’s just making me money, quite simply, so what more can you ask for? “Since we’ve been on Kerin Poll, we’ve been up and down with drought but last year we averaged 100% lambing over everything, including our maidens.

“Our lambing percentage has increased by about 20% overall since – despite the bad seasons we’ve had. Last year in particular, if we had had a good season, I don’t know what would have happened as we had twins and triplets everywhere but the ewes just couldn’t rear them all because of the drought. Since coming to Kerin Poll, we’ve lost no wool cut, and the sheep are earlier maturing. At four months of age, they’re just better grown sheep, and hopefully we’ll be able to join our maiden ewes earlier as a result.”

The Oldfield’s currently run 7000 (usually 12,000) Merino ewes across their 140,000-acre Mitchell Grass plains property. They usually run Angus cattle as well but drought forced their sale last year. A 125-millimetre rainfall event in March last year (2014), provided an opportunity for young sheep to catch up on lost weight gain.


“At eight months of age, they were averaging 45kg and that was after a horror start to their lives,” Tim says. “We’re certainly making more money out of our Kerin Poll sheep than anything else because they’re so fertile. It’s great the way Nigel is so progressive with his breeding, and he’s making really good gains in such a short time. He’s identifying the profit drivers and it’s money in my pocket for as far as I can see.”

Tim’s infectious positivity comes after his family business was dealt a challenge in 2012 that would test anyone – raging bushfire. In just three hours, bushfire annihilated about 60,000 acres – or 43% - of the Oldfield’s property. “There were at least 300 cows and 3-4000 sheep in front of the fire,” Tim recalls. "We were lucky to have only lost 20 cows and a couple of hundred sheep as it could have been disastrous."

Tim and Linda Oldfield, “Belalie”, 120km north of Bourke



HAVING an easy-care Merino flock doesn’t just make Phil Hunter’s family property more attractive to shearers and livestock contractors, but the next generation is set to benefit too.No longer is it just Phil and his father, Les, out in the paddocks, operating the family’s 1620ha mixed farming operation, but recently Phil’s eldest son, Edward has come home to work on “Minnamurra” too. Instantly, having an enjoyable workplace based around a low-maintenance 3000-ewe Kerin Poll Merino flock, has taken on new meaning.

“We’re happy with this type of sheep because we can run the ewes and aren’t chasing flies all summer,” Phil says. “We use a little bit of Clik Zin as part of the lamb marking process but for as far as the rest of the sheep are concerned, we do not use any other blowfly treatment. We don’t have to jet sheep. We might use five litres of Blowfly and Lice every four or five years, so we don’t use that much of it now either.”

While the maintenance was low, production was high, with the Hunters’ adult ewes scanning 173% in lamb in early July. “We had ewes raise two lambs inside last year, so we’re find ourselves at the stage where this year, we’ll be probably selling into our 2012-drop - just because of numbers, we can get rid of surplus sheep,” Phil says. “On the 16th of February last year, the ewes had a lamb. We put the rams straight back in 10 days after weaning the lambs. The November-drop lambs from this joining weren’t weaned until late-February/early-March. We joined those mothers again in the first week of March fir six weeks, to only one per cent rams, and the ewes weren’t doing all that well. But we joined the 500 ewes and we ended up with just 12 dry, so she returned back and we were just totally amazed how they weren’t in great order but still virtually all of them got pregnant again. So, it was a pretty exceptional result producing a lot of lambs in one 12-month period.”

The Hunters’ Merinos are shorn every 8 to 10 months, to cut 6.5kg of wool per head annualised, and it was again ease of management that drew Phil’s applause of the Kerin Poll influence. “When I left school, I did a fair bit of wool classing over a period of about eight years,” he says. “Back in the 1980s it did rain more often but with this type of Merino, we have forgotten what green wool, purply-coloured wool and water stains are like. I remember years ago you’d have a line of water stain. We haven’t even hand-picked a handful of water stain out of these type of sheep for years. There’s no more of this business of running five lines in the shed – there’s really only two lines of wool but the clean fleece weight is definitely there without all of the assorted oddment lines of water stain, 3B and that sort of stuff. They’re pretty much peas in a pod as they come across the table.”

In September last year, the Hunters erected a set of 3500-sheep capacity Proway sheepyards, and a sheep handler was to be added to the yards in coming months. “There are three generations of us on the place and we can all work in the yards and virtually don’t have to talk to each other,” Phil says. “Everything just works and happens really quickly and it’s an enjoyable day in the yards.”

Phil says he has been impressed with Kerin Poll’s considerable investment into new sires – especially the $53,000 ‘Kelvinator’ – as we as AI and ET programs. “They’re staying in front of their clients by a number of years and I know by talking with other clients that they’re happy with the progress the stud’s making as well as their own progress. It’s a pretty exciting thing to be involved with in.”

Philip and Rana Hunter, “Minnamurra”, Yeoval



There are a “heap of lambs” awaiting marking at Andrew and Andrea Reynolds’ property at Adelong – gateway to the Snowy Mountains – with Andrew already noticing their early growth and productive skins. A Kerin Poll client for two years, Andrew says he made the switch after observing the stud’s sheep display over two years at the South West Slopes Merino Field Day, Galong.


“How even they were was the first thing that struck me, and how well-grown and dual-purpose they appeared,” Andrew says. “I looked at them again the next year and was more impressed again, and so I made the transition from there. “I like the growth exhibited by Kerin Poll and they have bright, free-growing, long-stapled wool, together with being one of the most progressive studs. “The fertility, the dual purpose characteristics – it’s the all-round package, really.”

Andrew’s second drop of lambs by Kerin Poll sires lambed down over a seven-week period in chilly June/July and although they’re not yet marked and counted, he’s expecting a solid marking percentage. “There are a heap of lambs there, and they’re quite growthy with good productive skins - you can see they’re going to grow,” he says. “When we scanned the ewes, I had more multiples than singles across the flock, with 172 multiples and 152 singles in the maidens.”

The Reynolds family began wet-and-drying about 15 years ago and moved away from wet-and-drying a decade ago to instead utilise pregnancy scanning. Going forward, Andrew intends to incorporate both management tools. “This will be the third year where 

we’ve contracted our wether lambs to go in the first week of July, and I know the growth characteristics of Kerin Poll will assist for this job and maybe even allow us to sell the wether lambs a little bit younger,” Andrew says. “We classed our Kerin Poll rams in late-July and they were great – they’ve had a fair bit of rain on them but they looked really good so we didn’t kick any out.”

Andrew and Andrea Reynolds, “Coorumbene”, Adelong




"We bought eight rams in 2013 because we were chasing frame and fleece weights. I’ve dipped Nigel’s sheep for the past three years and every time I go there his sheep seem to be performing with plenty of frame and fleece weights, and they seem to be that type of sheep that wants to go ahead. Also, buying Poll rams seems to appeal more to shearers, so we’re keen to go that way.


“When we scanned our ewes, they scanned at 98% (wet and dry), and then we twinned them and there were 48% with twins, including our maiden ewes. I also marked 121% of lambs out of our maiden ewes (486 maiden ewes, 589 lambs) in July, and I was very impressed with the lambs at marking. So as for fertility, I think they’re definitely on the right track.

“I’ve never experienced that percentage of conception in sheep – especially in Merinos – and to have the ewes still growing plenty of wool was impressive. 
“We shore nine months ago and we’re going to shear early this year because the ewes have got a good staple length of wool, so we plan to shear every nine months going forward. I think Kerin Poll is doing an excellent job as a stud. When you’re getting a combination of carcase weight, fleece weight and a conception rate, I don’t think there’s any other way to go as long as those three things are maintained.”

Jamie dips between 440,000 and 510,000 sheep a year, as part of his contract dipping business. “So I get to see a lot of sheep. There are a lot of studs around and lot of good sheep but the biggest key has been picking sheep that suit our goals and our area.”

Grazier and contract livestock service provider, Jamie Barclay, "Wiruna" and Barclay's Kelpies, Boorowa



Lindsay and Rae Young run “Lewisham”, a 1000ha property in Tasmania’s Midlands running between 8000 and 10,000 DSE - across 100 paddocks. This is a challenging environment with dry summers, limited winter grass growth, followed by big springs.

“Until recently, our focus was on wool and supplying wethers for a second property that ran wethers only. After selling that property in 2012, our emphasis has changed to supplying young wethers to the meat market. We also have long term contracts for our wool at solid premium from the New Zealand Merino Co, through the ZQue program. The requirements for ZQue are for an animal welfare policy and also an environmental management plan - both of which are subject to audit.

“When looking for a new source of genetics to improve early growth, muscling and doing ability Kerin Poll was chosen for their ability to supply a large selection of performance-measured and grass fed rams, at commercially affordable prices. Their strong emphasis on good environmental management and animal welfare fits our objectives. We look forward to the first drop of lambs in September,” Lindsay says.

Graziers, Lindsay and Rae Young, "Lewisham", Ross, Tasmania 

 


“I was impressed with what I saw (at the 2013 ram sale). The addition of having worm egg count (FEC) plus fleece weight ASBVs was a plus because the more data there is available to us, the greater chance we have of making some sort of an intelligent choice with regards to the selection of our rams. With the cost of drenches and labour involved in drenching sheep, if you can minimise it with the right genetics, that’s a plus.

“I have been particularly impressed with what the team at Kerin Poll are doing, producing a minimum care type sheep, having lots of data available for the sheep, but also the transparency of the operation – whereas in the bad old days, there wasn’t any transparency. So, it’s all good and is all heading the right way.”

Grazier, Graham Yelland, "Berness", Manildra 






“We’ve been using Kerin Poll rams for three years. They are a style of sheep we have been looking for and Julie and I would happily recommend Kerin Poll to anybody looking for a change as we feel there’s more predictability and structure running this style of sheep. We feel it’s a winning situation for us and the shearers to have easier sheep to handle and shear.

“We have particularly noticed a big change in our weaners. They’re bigger in size at a younger age, have brighter wools, handle better, and we’re having less trouble with flies. We sold 10-month-old wether lambs at Forbes in early July for $122, after they cut $28/head in March. These were the leftovers from last season’s lambs.

“In our livestock program, we run 1800 breeding ewes - 1000 crossbred and Merino ewes joined to Poll Dorset rams and a further 800 to Merino rams. We crutched 450 Merino ewe weaners in July, which I classed over the board and wouldn’t have taken out any more than 10%. I would happily keep these culls to join with Poll Dorset rams. I will properly class weaners at a later date still. I believe any Kerin Poll culls could be kept to join to Poll Dorset rams or if the season was favourable, they could be sold in store sales.

“Our Merino lambing percentages are consistently 120 to130%. Running a fat lamb operation can impact on this figure – the Merinos get the rougher end of the deal as we lamb them later than the crossbreds.

“Our goal for the future is to join more ewes to Merino rams as the Kerin Poll style of sheep is proving you can make just as much money without the big workload that comes from a more traditional Merino type.”

Grazier, Nigel Porter, "Wilga Downs", Tullamore



"Agriculture can be an extremely risky proposition, and to help combat this I am constantly on the look-out for something that gives my business an edge. I believe that Kerin Poll Merino gives me a competitive advantage in my business.

"Since the introduction of Kerin Poll blood into my flock, I have achieved up to 150% lambing, combined with large-framed sheep that grow quickly with plenty of soft, white, fly-resistant wools. The lambs grow very quickly with growth rates more like crossbred lambs than traditional Merinos. The money I received for last year's wether lambs was more in line with first cross prices, due to excellent growth and carcase characteristics that the Kerin Poll sheep exhibit.

"The Kerin Poll team hasn't gone chasing fads. They have concentrated on breeding profitable, practical and easy-care sheep that can be run in any environment. This means more profit for my business with less work, which definitely helps take the stress out of running Merinos. 

"The future looks bright for the Merino industry if you've got people like Nigel and his team breeding such good sheep."


Grazier, Bill Davidson, "Dunroamin", Hallsville, via Tamworth
  



“I auctioned eight-month-old (November 2012-drop) Kerin Poll Merino wether lambs at Dubbo saleyards on July 15, 2013. They had been shorn on February 1 and carried 55mm of wool. They attracted solid competition on the day and sold to a processor for $113.50.

“The lambs all had very good meat traits and the result was in line with some of the crossbred market. They were very, very similar to a first cross type in terms of butt shape and skin, and that showed through the price they sold for. They would achieve crossbred skin price because there’s no ribbing in the skin.

“With this type of Merino, you’re getting the value in the wool – where the crossbreds aren’t – yet the carcase is potentially of the same value as the crossbred. As far as production per unit is concerned, they’re very much in line with the crossbred and potentially more so, with the value of the wool taken into account. If they’d been pumped up on grain like some of these crossbred lambs are, and if you factored in the wool price, I think they’d be shooting right up in the top end of the market.”

Livestock agent, Marcus Bruce, Landmark Dubbo   



“I’ve had a look through the (2012 sale) rams and found a very even line of sheep. They’ve stood up and have presented very well. They’re open, they’re big, and that’s what we like about the sheep. Their structure is better and their overall growth is better even though they’ve had a hard winter. So to see what I’ve seen today is definitely a big improvement on what I saw last year and the year before.


"We came to Kerin Poll initially because we knew we had too much skin on our sheep at home. We liked Nigel’s enthusiasm with the sheep and figured it was only an added advantage to have him come and class our sheep at home. Our flock has jumped tenfold. Our wools are brighter, we’re not getting those excess sheep with heavier skin, our lambing percentages are lifting and we’re finding that our ewes seem to be better mothers. At the same time, we’re still increasing our wool kilograms per head. 

"This year, the shearers were commenting about how well the sheep shore. I think that’s somewhere else we’ve got to look in the industry. If the shearers don’t want to shear them then no-one’s going to shear them, so if you’re going to have a big rough, necky, wooly sheep that won’t comb, you’re just not going to get anyone to shear them. We’ve found that the shearers are enjoying shearing our sheep. We’ve got blokes shearing up to 65 a run, and they’re still cutting up to 7kg of wool – so we can’t complain about that. I think that all links back to our classing through Nigel and the type of rams that are coming through our breeding program at the moment is definitely improving our bottom line. 

"My father was up at classing this year when Nigel was there and he could see the improvement in the sheep and thought they looked good – and they did look good too. They were magnificent! We’re passionate about the sheep breeding game and our breeding aim is to have a big carcase with a bright, free-growing wool and high fertility, and by coming here to Kerin Poll we think we can achieve that.”

Grazier, Adrian Scolari, "Maroomba", Tomingley - WATCH ADRIAN'S VIDEO HERE



“I’ve been through the unlotted Autumn and Spring 2011-drop rams (2012 sale rams) looking at the growth and shape of the rams. The wool type throughout the draft is consistently very even, with only a very small percentage of rams that aren’t suitable to me. I think they compare and come up very well. They’re a good drop of rams unsorted and unclassed, and they’re good for selecting a sale draft from at a later point. This will be the third year that we’ll buy rams from Kerin Poll and I think the quality of the rams stands out and I think they’re above the two previous drafts that we’ve looked at.

"At home, I’m hoping to help the frame and scale of our sheep and some of the ASBVs coming through at Kerin Poll will help a lot of different attributes in our flock sheep. Our first hogget shearing was only just recently and I think the full draft of hoggets were a bit more free, and bit longer in the body, and bit better grown, and I was quite pleased with them compared to the previous drops – they shaped up quite nicely. 


"The Kerin Poll rams show structural soundness, great growth for age, evenness as a group, with bright long wools and evenness of wool type. I feel these rams are perfect for the “Mount Top” flock to improve frame, brighten wool type, and free up the skins." 

Grazier, Murray Wykes, “Mount Top”, Eucareena - WATCH MURRAY'S VIDEO HERE



“In July (2011), I scanned the Kerin Poll commercial and stud ewe flock, including maidens, for a 97.8% scanning.

"I have scanned 830,000 ewes across the NSW Central West over the past four years, of all sheep breeds and ages. 

"I have never had a single age group scan this well let alone an entire flock,” 


Tony Walsh, Tony Walsh Sheep and Cattle Pregnancy Scanning, Narromine







“A high proportion of shearers travel widely for work to maintain and increase their income, or to gain experience and improve their skills. These shearers are always looking for consistent runs of good shearing, free-combing sheep, and they avoid areas of tough, slow-shearing sheep. Due to past experience or word of mouth, shearers are unlikely to return or even consider going to areas that are of little benefit to them, as generally good shearing sheep pay the same as tough slow shearing sheep. Contractors are acutely aware of the shearing quality of the sheep in their runs and the continuity of work to attract and retain shearers and shed hands who will return every year.
 
"Kerin Polls are a good example of the modern type of Merino that tick the boxes for attracting and holding good quality shearers and shed staff. Kerin Polls are plain-bodied with smooth, supple skins, making them easier shearing sheep. Due to the nature of the sheep and the ease of shearing, shearers are able to improve their tallies - up to as many as 10 sheep a run - therefore increasing their incomes (by approx. $100 a day) and enhancing their skills. It is not only the shearers that gain from the plain-bodied sheep. Shedhands and woolclassers also benefit as the fleeces are easier and faster to handle on the wool table, due to less fribs, skin pieces and skirting.

"Kerin Poll sheep cut the same fleece weight as heavy-skinned sheep, producing bright, soft handling white wool with no fleece rot - regardless of how wet the year is. This was
particularly noticeable after the recent exceptionally wet summer season.

"With many job options available to young people, they need every encouragement to enter and stay in the shearing industry. This type of sheep and good working conditions make
Nigel and Kate Kerin’s a soughtafter shed."

Ralph Blue, Principal, Blue Shearing Services, Yeoval - WATCH RALPH'S VIDEO HERE


 
“Without doubt Nigel Kerin is one of the most progressive and enthusiastic Merino producers in
the country today. During a time when Merino growers were turning their back on the wool industry, Nigel has grown and prospered because of his commitment, willingness to embrace change, and enthusiasm to the Merino breed. I have been purchasing rams bred by the Kerins for almost 10 years and have benefited from their influence.

"Their sheep are well-structured, plain-bodied with soft white 20-micron wool. Fertility and mothering ability is an area they have concentrated on and ram clients will benefit from this emphasis. This year we have had good summer and autumn rain and subsequent floods. None of our grown sheep have had any chemical for fly protection for the past three seasons and this year it was no different. At a time when the sheep and wool industry is at its best in years, it is vital to maximise your breeding direction and continue to improve for the future.

"At my annual shearing at Tilpa in July 2011, my ewe hoggets cut upwards of 6kg with next to no colour in the wool - and they looked a picture off the board. In a year of high rainfall and long grass, the benefit of having big, plain-bodied ewes was evident in the wool bin and in the count-out yards. A bought mob of ewes with big fronts produced a lot more seedy, coloured wool, and the shearers went back 15 a run. These ewes cut the same amount of wool as the big, plain-bodied Kerin ewes. It wasn’t until I saw the two mobs
shorn - one after the other – that I realised the full benefits of the genetic improvement in my own flock."

Wool broker and grazier, Don Macdonald, Don Macdonald and Company Woolbrokers, Dubbo



"We purchased rams at the inaugural Kerin Poll On-Property Ram Sale and are extremely happy with the resulting offspring. We only buy Poll Merinos, for their ease of management, and safety for the operators and the rams themselves. So, we want true polls - without horns or scurs.

"As wool producers we are always looking to increase our wool cut but this must be in conjunction with a low maintenance body. The plain-bodied Kerin Poll rams produce this frames as well as high fertility in our ewes, to increase lambing percentages. The large frame and long bodies will ensure surplus sheep returns are maximised.

"Knowing Nigel and his management style gives us confidence that the breeding will produces consistency in the next generation, and not throw back to shortcuts or a blowout in micron."

Grazier, Tony Gilmour, "Happy Valley", Gilgandra



“We bought 430 ’06-drop Merino ewes from Nigel and Kate in December 2009, right before a wet summer. We were quite impressed by how well they handled the moisture despite not having any chemical treatment. I have never seen sheep so fly resistant, and I’ve been in sheep for over 20 years. Nigel, in our view, is where we’d like our sheep to be and hopefully we can fast-track our transition with the help of Nigel’s genetics. 

“We joined the ewes but didn’t scan them because we knew they were good breeders, and we marked 141% of lambs from them. We were very impressed with that when our own were only going 110- 115%. To go 141% unscanned, we thought was very good. 

“I’ve had a fair bit to do with Merinos ever since I was a kid and I’ve had a lot to do with blowflies in sheep. Up until fairly recently I thought it was impossible to breed Merinos that didn’t get flies whereas now I believe you can, and I’ve had it proven to me. You don’t have to live with blowflies if you’ve got Merinos.

"To me that means a lot less work, less worry, less cost, and more profit for less work. There’s nothing worse than bringing in a mob of sheep and seeing that 5% of them have got
flies across the shoulders or tail. It just doesn’t happen now and it makes life so much better to have Merinos.”

Grazier, Richard Stendell, “Ben Avon”, Brewarrina - WATCH RICHARD'S VIDEO HERE



“I have been involved with marketing the Kerin family sheep for approximately 13 years. Over this time we have sold prime lambs over the hook and through the saleyards, we have sold store breeders to restockers, and surplus or cast-for-age sheep to processors. The results achieved speak for themselves, with repeat buyers lining up for all the Kerin-bred sheep that come on to the market. In the prime Merino lambs produced, we see yields of 48% and skin values at the top of the spectrum. In the ewes that are sold to restockers, lambings of over 150% are commonplace with wool cuts exceeding all expectations. All in all, for dollars returned per head and per hectare, the Kerin family flock is at the top of the tree!”


Livestock agent, Tim Wiggins, Christie and Hood, Dubbo



 



“My first introduction to Nigel was through further education, which - for those of you that don’t know him - makes him strive for excellence and to learn something new every day. Throughout that time a different understanding of sheep breeding came to the fore. Micron, fleece weights, etc, were all part of it but Nigel’s stance on Merino ewe fertility struck a real chord. When I saw for myself his Merino ewe lambs having lambs without compromise for growth, the seed was sown. A look over the Kerins’ stud ewes and I was sold. 

"A big question in my mind was: ‘can I bring a massive western sheep back into the high rainfall country?' We bought our first ram from Nigel three years ago. Having had two lambings before Kerin Poll’s first sale, I have the pleasure of saying that they have held their white wool colour, and the style has actually become better, which is a real win. The real visual difference was in the size of the offspring. The physical presence and growth of the lambs by the ram bought in 2008 is outstanding. This led us to Kerin Poll’s first ram sale in 2010 where we bought three rams that averaged over 100kg, for a $3500 average.

"With the sheep market performing as it has been, we believe the sky is the limit for the new Merino sheep the Kerins are breeding. Thanks for everything Nigel.” 

Grazier, Norm McCormack, Crookwell



“I have been classing Nigel and Kate Kerin’s wool for the past four years and I have never experienced any fleece rot or canary yellow in their wool. Over that time they have had some of their wettest seasons. I came across large amounts of green, water-damaged wool in many of the sheds that I classed in across Central West NSW over the 2010/11 summer.  

“The Kerin Poll clip always exhibits high tensile strength, it is very bright and white, and is very soft to touch, with good style. This year, the average staple length with eight months growth was 90mm.”

Trish Bateman, Kerin Poll Wool Classer, Blue Shearing Services