Merinos … the most profitable breed

Independent research and field trials show that Merinos are the ultimate dual-purpose sheep and are a highly profitable addition to any farming enterprise.

The Breed More Merino Ewes campaign highlights Merinos are achieving profitable results for producers compared to other breeds and enterprises across Australia in a range of production systems and rainfall zones.

The Merino Stat File

  • Merinos at Elmore, Victoria, in 2015 had the highest $/DSE return at $69 and $70 compared to the other groups at $57‐$61, as part of the six‐year breed comparison trial.
  • Merinos in the inaugural Booborowie Feedlot Competition recorded average weight gains of up to 307 grams per day during the competition, among the highest weight gains among any of the placegetters.
  • Merinos on SA’s Yorke Peninsula are making an average gross margin of $94 per hectare per 100 millimetres of growing season rainfall.
  • Merinos near Lake Grace in WA are benchmarked as making $200 to $250/ha, from a DSE of 4‐6/ha in 2015‐16.
  • Merinos in Tasmania in 2015 returned an operating income of about $70/DSE for wool, compared with $60/DSE for prime lamb and $50/DSE for beef.

Merinos deliver the highest returns, outperforming other livestock enterprises

For Tasmanian producer David Taylor – who benchmarks his operation through Holmes Sackett – Merinos are generating an income of about $70/DSE for wool, compared with $60/DSE for prime lamb and $50/DSE for beef.

“Over the past three years, the net profit per DSE from an average wool flock has outperformed an average prime lamb flock by about $2.30/DSE – an 18% higher return. The net profit/DSE over an average beef herd is even greater at about $2.90/DSE – or a 22% higher return,” he said.

In addition, Merinos topped a six year sheep profitability trial at Elmore, Victoria. The 2015 trial report, Ewes for the Future – Lambs, Wool and Profit, stated: “With lower risk, particularly in tight seasons when significantly higher feed needs are taken into account, the Merino had the highest $/DSE return at $69 and $70 compared to the other groups at $57‐$61.”

Merinos are competitive with returns from grain growing enterprises

Western Australian Wheat Belt Region farm consultant Ed Riggall says benchmarking figures for Merinos in WA’s wheat belt region ranged from $35 to $40‐plus DSE per hectare in 2015‐16.

“In the Lake Grace region, with a DSE of 4‐6/ha, producers were benchmarked as making $200 to $250/ha which, next to 2 tonnes/ha of wheat or barley, is a very comparable enterprise,” he said.

Meanwhile in South Australia, Yorke Peninsula sheep producer Martin Ramsay’s current gross margin is $94 per hectare per 100 millimetres of growing season rainfall.
“It wasn’t economically viable for me to run cropping in comparison to livestock due to machinery costs, and not having any machinery agencies or mechanics nearby to service or fix machines when needed. Now three‐quarters of my income comes from livestock.”

Merino Success Stories

Many Merino producers are achieving outstanding financial returns – in terms of dollars per dry sheep equivalent or per hectare – through best practice flock management and business planning.

Here’s a snapshot of what producers from across Australia are saying about Merinos …

GregHayes1 smlGreg Hayes, South Australia

AS a self-confessed numbers man, Redhill farmer Greg Hayes knows full-well that Merinos are the most profitable breed for his sheep and cropping enterprise. Read More

scottScott Nicholson, Victoria

STAWELL producer Scott Nicholson likes to control as many variables as possible to maximise profitability in his livestock operation. Read More

boyd webbBoyd Webb, Queensland

BETWEEN dogs and drought, sheep numbers really took a hit at Weewondilla, north of Longreach, Queensland. Things are now starting to turn around for the Webb family as they rebuild their Merino operation. Read More

ricky luhrsRicky Luhrs, Victoria

THE modern Merino is far from just a buzzword for Mooralla producer Ricky Luhrs, it’s the key to a profitable business.

Overhauling their Merino genetics to focus on breeding the right balance of fat, muscle and carcase is just one of many aims for the Luhr family. Read More

andrew scanlonAndrew Scanlon, WA

WAGIN farmer Andrew Scanlon doesn’t mince his words, farming is his business and he runs Merinos because they are the most profitable breed. Read More

craig wright smlDavid and Debbie Mullins, New South Wales

IT has been a tough few seasons for Manildra sheep producers David and Debbie Mullins, but if one thing has shone through, it’s the hardiness of the Merino.

The Mullins’ property, Pinetrees-Bocobra Valley, spans 1010 hectares near Manildra, New South Wales, with a further 142ha leased. Read More

craig wright smlAndrew Calvert, Tasmania

WHEN weighing up the option of having one income stream versus two, it just makes good business sense to go with the latter.

That is just one of many reasons why livestock consultant Andrew Calvert is passionate about Merinos - the true dual-purpose nature of the breed. Read More

craig wright smlCraig Wright, South Australia

A BACKGROUND in shearing has made third generation Charra farmer Craig Wright quite particular about his wool quality. Low rainfall and short seasons are just two of the challenges faced by the Wrights on their coastal property, but after four generations of farming they have come to know what works. Read More

wyatt family smlEvan, Jeni and Patrik Wyatt, Western Australia

MERINOS have always been a profitable option for Evan Wyatt, which is exactly why he and his family have chosen to stick with the breed in their livestock and cropping enterprise. Read More

ben banks smlBob and Stephen Tohl, South Australia

DESIGNATED weaning paddocks, culling of dry ewes, feed lotting, supplementary feeding and genetic selection are some of the tools utilised by Mid North SA farmers Bob and Stephen Tohl to maximise productivity of their Merino enterprise. Read More

ben banks smlMike Pratt, Queensland

WHEN Mike Pratt looks at his Merinos, all he can see is growth. Growth of flock numbers, growth in genetic advances, physical growth of meat and wool, growth in his local community and growth of the entire Merino industry across Queensland and Australia. Read More

ben banks smlRod Taylor, Western Australia

LOOKING back over his 37 years of farming, Rod Taylor can recall a time when wool prices were just $2.40/kg. Such memories make it all the sweeter now his clip averages $15/kg plus, and when you’re running 51,000 Merinos, it’s a rather comfortable position to be in. Read More

ben banks smlRob O'Connor, Tasmania

WHEN the figures started stacking up, Tasmanian farmer Rob O’Connor figured it was time to breed more Merino ewes. Six years ago, after extensive analysis of his mixed sheep enterprise, Rob decided to sideline his crossbreeding program and shift his focus back to refining his Merino genetics and boosting his flock numbers. Read More

ben banks smlDean Wheaton, Victoria

DEAN Wheaton didn’t think his Merinos could perform any better than the 2017 season. Then along came 2018. Wool prices increased by 30 per cent, sheep values continued to climb and his lambing rates were also heading higher, making for a perfect storm of Merino magic. Read More

ben banks smlBen and Oona Banks, Queensland

WESTERN Queensland grazier Ben Banks has long known the value of a Merino ewe. So much so, that even throughout the last 20 years of unpredictable and extreme weather patterns of northern Australia, Ben and his family have done everything within their power to hold onto their core breeding ewes. Read More

ian shippen smlIan and Camilla Shippen, New South Wales

WHEN Moulamein farmer Ian Shippen drifts off to sleep each night, he rests easy, knowing his sheep will have grown him seven more bales of wool by the morning. Read More

craig hickman smlCraig Hickman, South Australia

MERINOS are a vital part of the enterprise mix at Craig and Abigail Hickman’s Curramulka property Seaview, on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, producing $130 per winter grazed hectare per 100mm of growing season rainfall in 2016.  Read More

daniel schuppan sa1Daniel Schuppan, South Australia

Merinos offer farmers a profitable option with the ability to produce a gross margin of up to $60 per dry sheep equivalent for self-replacing Merino flocks in the cereal zone according to 2016-17 Sheep’s Back Benchmarking Program figures, says Landmark Animal Production Specialist Daniel Schuppan.  Read More

simon fowler sa1Simon Fowler, Western Australia

The Fowler family are a force to be reckoned with in an era where big corporate businesses are slowly nudging out family-owned and operated farming systems. Read More

david taylor tas1David Taylor, Tasmania

“Over the past three years, the net profit per DSE from an average wool flock has outperformed an average prime lamb flock by about $2.30/DSE – an 18% higher return. The net profit/DSE over an average beef herd is even greater at about $2.90/DSE – or a 22% higher return.”    Read More

martin ramsay sa1Martin Ramsay, South Australia

Merino profitability on my farm is driven by three key factors – stocking rate, bodyweight and fleeceweight. While these key factors vary year‐on‐year, I’ve seen a steady improvement in all of them since I’ve been benchmarking. This takes the guess work out of measuring profitability and you can get a clearer picture of where you’re going season to season.”  Read More

ed riggall wa1Ed Riggall, Western Australia

“From an economic perspective, sheep meat and wool indicators are fantastic. If you’re not enthusiastic about the prospects of sheep meat and wool now, you’ll never be. On a sheep confidence index I would rate it as a 10 out of 10.”  Read More

brent sophie1Brent Flood, Victoria

“Merinos have the wool cut, the wool quality and they are the backbone of the first‐cross ewe industry. For the amount you can run per acre they are a very profitable article. They have a genuine profitability. One semi‐load of wool is the equivalent of 40 loads of barley in the current market.”

james derrickJames Derrick, New South Wales

“I’ve done the calculations and Merinos come out on top. I’m switching back for ease of management, it’s much simpler and more efficient to run a single breed enterprise. I feel the Merino lambs will more than fill the requirements previously filled by the crossbred lambs.”  Read More

More merino success stories

Monumental season for SA Merino rams

Merinos show dual-purpose strength in Booborowie competition

Dual-purpose Merinos prove profitable at Elmore

Reasons for merino confidence