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Payback on Sheep Auto Drafter with just two lamb truckloads

​​Merv Williams had an idea to lot feed Merino lambs with bread. Having been told he’d fail — because of both the Merinos and the bread — he set out anyway. Twelve months later, Merv’s operation is a resounding success.

He buys in Merino lambs at four to five months old — paying around $30 a head — then turns them off around eight months, receiving upwards of $120/head.

“Even with the most expensive lambs I bought last year — at $60 a head — we still made good money on them.”

Merv starts the sheep off on a high hay ration, gradually reducing that to 10% to finish.

“We’re pulling bread from major bakeries in Perth — the tonnage each week depends upon the season — and I also give the lambs some mineral supplements. There’s a chap who was lot feeding cattle with bread, but I’m the only one I know of doing lambs. Different ones said to me ‘you can’t feed bread to lambs, you lose too many’, and all sorts of things. Some said ‘no good buying bloody Merino lambs to lot feed, you can’t make any money out of them — Merinos only dress out around 44%’.

"Well mine have been dressing out at 52%-plus. So basically, I’ve proved them all drastically wrong!”

Weight accuracy vital

Merv says a key tool in his unusual enterprise is his Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter. 

“The abattoir has a grid bracket of between 18 and 26 kilos, dressed weight, that they want. I only send lambs I know will fit into that."

"And I know that because of the Gallagher Auto Drafter. If you’re going to do the job, do it properly. You’ve got to know what your weight gains are, what weights you’re sending away — that sort of stuff."

“If you don’t know that, you’re in the dark and you lose money. If you send a lamb that doesn’t dress over 18kg, you’re down from $5.40/kg to $3. It’s a fairly fine line you can come back to. If you start losing $2 or $2.40/kg, it takes the price of the lamb down a long way — you’d be back to a $60/$70 lamb instead of $130."

“You’ve got to get them in that grid, in that weight range, and the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter allows us to do that.”

Quiet, sheep-friendly drawcards

Merv began his operation last year, leasing the old Ross Guy Feedlot at Mundijong in Western Australia. 

“I looked at drafters at the Dowerin Field Day before I started. I wasn’t interested in handling it any other way; that's mainly because I work on my own, and you can’t draft on your own. Well, I’ve got two Maltese Shih-Tzu dogs, but they’ve got a lot to learn!" 

“I asked Darren Manning at Landmark at Midvale to get some prices. I went for the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter because it’s a faster drafting than some of the others, and it just seemed to be more sheep friendly."

“It’s very quiet. The lambs stand at it. When there’s one in the gate, there’s another one standing at the gate, nudging, waiting for it to open to get in. It’s sort of amazing, really. Occasionally you might have to push one in, but not very often.”

Sole drafting easy 

For Merv, the Sheep Auto Drafter’s speed and user-friendliness have made it a great investment — with a very fast return on that investment.

“Last week I did 270 lambs in just under 30 minutes myself. Well, and the two little dogs, of course! I can do those sort of numbers and time just on my own."

“So with just two loads of prime lambs off to the abattoir, the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter’s paid for itself. If you didn’t use it, you could hit too many penalties, you just lose so much money. I run them through the drafter and say ‘these lambs will make us X amount of dollars’."

“Darren from Landmark came down to the abattoirs to see the last lot go through. There were 330 head and he asked me how I reckoned they’d go. I estimated between $120 and $125 a head, average. They came out at $123.60. I was bang in the middle! That’s the beauty of the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter.”

“So with just two loads of prime lambs off to the abattoir, the Gallagher Sheep Auto Drafter’s paid for itself."