Introducing Andrew Hodgson: shedding sheep specialist - Elders Rural Services
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Introducing Andrew Hodgson: shedding sheep specialist

Elders is pleased to announce the appointment of Andrew Hodgson, WA Stud Shedding Sheep Specialist.

This not only continues Elders’ commitment to the shedding sheep industry, but significantly increases the level of expertise for our customers.

Elders Communications Specialist, Matt Ough, chatted with Andrew to find out a little more about his knowledge of shedding sheep and what he hopes to bring to Elders.

What led you to specialise in shedding sheep?

I’ve been around livestock all my life and I was lucky enough to have had some great teachers who impressed on me the importance of having functional, profitable livestock.

I have managed Merino studs and commercial operations, prime lamb producing operations, large scale beef breeding and finishing properties throughout Australia and overseas from tropical beef cattle to large scale sheep and beef properties in the Argentine Patagonia, worked as an agent in Stud Stock and spent time with both AWI and MLA.

I first saw shedding sheep when SAABCO brought Dorpers, White Dorpers, SAMMs, Boer Goats, Damaras and Merinos into Western Australia (WA) from South Africa in 1996.

I was most interested in the shedding or clean skin breeds and worked with some producers who were trialling them in WA.

Why are farmers choosing shedding breeds - is there a type of farm they suit best?

I don’t see the shedding breeds and Merinos being in competition to a great extent. Producers who are running Merinos today, after all the tribulations of the last 30 odd years are good at it.

Where I see the shedding breeds being able to make a big change is in the production of lambs, where the dam carries a low value fleece that still needs to be shorn and still has all of the associated management issues that come with wool.

With number of lambs weaned being a key profit driver in any sheep operation, the ability of most shedding breeds to mate out of season (polyestrus) then becomes very important with many producers now lambing three times in two years. To do this, a good level of management and nutrition need to be in place. A well-made productive ewe in good order can easily achieve 120+ per cent (pc) lambing rates three times in two years, which when multiplied by three and divided by two years is impressive!

Cattle producers are also looking at the shedding breeds as a serious option. As one breeder noted, he produces kilos of red meat and he would be mad not to consider shedding sheep. As he put it, he can wean around 50 pc of his breeder’s body weight per annum, while a shedding ewe goes close to weaning her own body weight in a 12-month period.

Ease of management is also an important consideration with many of the management processes involved with wool sheep. Completely eliminating (shearing, crutching, fly control and external parasites), while some producers are even choosing to leave the tails on which eliminates a setback in the lamb and also goes towards a more ethical production model.

Is supply catching up to demand or do you see a scenario where demand will outweigh supply for shedding breeds, and we’ll continue to see high prices?

I believe the high levels of demand will continue. While my crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s, it’s hard to envisage a situation where the current high worldwide demand for sheep meat will diminish significantly with Australia, one of the only countries worldwide with the ability to consistently produce big numbers for export and many of the worlds developing economies being traditional sheep meat consumers.

I have heard the comment that today the shedding sheep share of the Australian flock is around 3 to 4 pc and I would expect that number to grow considerably over the next 10 years.

However, this scenario creates the opportunity for people to sell anything and everything as a shedder and receive top dollar. Basic business principles still apply, and producers should inspect any potential purchases with their Elders agent and do their sums as to future returns.

My suggestion to people wanting to start a shedding flock is to sell off a few age groups and replace them with shedding females often ewe weaners are a good option with most breeds able to get in lamb at around 42 to 45 kgs.

Lastly, what are you hoping to achieve on behalf of Elders customers in your new role?

I have spent a fair bit of time on both sides of the fence and believe that I can offer level-headed advice about a producer’s whole operation and maybe take some of the emotion out of the decision-making process.

Shedding sheep have a massive future within the Australian livestock industry and have now passed beyond the point of being “niche” or “hobby” type options.  Producers considering moving into them or expanding their current operation will need the best advice they can get around the benefits and pitfalls.

 

Welcome Andrew, we look forward to the professional approach and expertise you will bring to the Elders Stud Stock team.

Speak to your local Stud Stock agent or learn more about their services.

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Are you looking to increase your flock? Elders offers a variety of livestock funding options depending on your needs. 

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