Containment yards are woolgrower Sean McDougall’s secret weapon to farm management, estimated to have returned more than $95,000 from the initial investment three years ago.
The sixth generation farmer introduced containment yards to the family’s property, Rosevale, situated at Tatyoon in Victoria’s Western District, in 2015, as a risk mitigation following years of crippling drought.
The McDougall family run beef cattle and crops on the 1335-hectare property, as well as 2800 Merino ewes.
The six yards measure about 6200 square metres, and can hold a recommended 1200 sheep at one sheep per five metres, although Mr McDougall successfully stocks in mobs of 450.
Of the total flock size, 2000 Merino ewes are joined to Merino rams, and 800 to White Suffolks.
The majority of the ewes are joined while in the containment yards in March to lamb down for a traditional spring lambing in September.
Mobs are put in containment areas for three months through autumn and are supplementary fed hay, barley and straw, on a three-day rotation.
The move rests the predominantly perennial, ryegrass and clover mix pasture base which, following the autumn break, has had outstanding growth measuring an estimated 1500 kilograms a hectare. The abundant green pastures posed another challenge.
“I argue with the old man when to let the sheep out because there is a temptation when there is nice green feed to let them out,” he said.
While the containment yards cost an estimated $15,000 in materials, he said the benefits had been substantially more with ewes requiring 20 per cent less feed due to the lack of energy use and had improved conception rate by 20pc.
“It comes back to the main reason we are trying to farm, to be profitable,” he said.
Since 2015, Mr McDougall said Rosevale’s stocking rate had increased from 12.4 dry sheep equivalent (DSE) a hectare to 15.2DSE/ha.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re running 10,000 wethers in the middle of NSW, or 6000 breeding ewes in Tasmania, we can relate it all back to a DSE rating. The extra stocking rate is an extra $95,000 in the bank in the past three years,” he said.