THE LAND ARTICLE: Michael Rickets

IN 2007 Michael Ricketts attended a clearing sale at Thuddungra to buy a truck for a friend, but went home with an entire flock of 1700 Coonong blood Merino ewes, rams as well.

“That was probably my best day’s work,” he said, because he also kept on the classer, Andy McLeod, who has classed the flock now for 30 years.

Those ewes’ first full-year shearing returned $19 a head more than Mr Ricketts’ original flock ewes and last week after a day-and-a-half shearing 943 ewes had cut 43 bales averaging 190 kilograms with the big woolcutters’ fleeces making up to 8.66kg.

Mr Ricketts said Andy McLeod still selects the rams for “Tumbleton North” – 20 to 20.5 micron Haddon Rig blood flock with four purchased this year averaging $4938 and topping at $6500.

Lambing results on high

LAMBING ewes don’t think it strange to see an orange Suzuki vehicle stopping, starting and slowly driving through their paddock.

They are used to Michael Ricketts inspecting them mid-morning each day during the five-week lambing period. They saw the same vehicle when they were lambs and it minimises mis-mothering.

“Ewes and lambs get used to it as I only inspect in it at the same time daily,” he said.

He has a purpose-vehicle for all paddock activities involving his self-replacing Merino flock at “Tumbleton North”, Young.

“I use a four-wheeled bike to muster and the white HiLux when hand-feeding or moving feeders and other paddock work.”

The flock this year attained a 124.8 lambing percentage at marking on ewes joined and ewes are cutting skirted fleeces averaging 8.2 kilograms.

With wife, Pauline, Mr Ricketts crops the heavy-soil country making up half of their 780 hectares to wheat and canola with a good percentage of grazing varieties which he increased this year due to a foreseeable dry winter.

Improved pastures of three clover varieties each with a rainfall maturity date plus grasses of tall fescue and phalaris grow on the remaining hilly, rocky predominantly granite country utilising all in turn to graze a 2200 ewe Haddon Rig blood flock.

Keeping nutrition as the key to much of the flock’s lamb production and woolcutting success, Mr Ricketts believes feeding and breeding has a lot to do with that success.

“We join for five weeks from early December and run the ewes and rams on our wheat and canola stubble,” Mr Ricketts said.

“Ewes get a fresh boost of protein with the grain left behind and as there are a lot of gullies and rocky outcrops, they find a fresh pick in the uncropped area as well.”

At the end of February and early March they are split into single, twinners and dries.

“After splitting we maintain ewes at their current body score, however, the twinners are given as much feed as they require. If there is no green feed in the stubble we will introduce them to a grain ration.”

On April 1 they are crutched, vaccinated and given a 100-day worming drench capsule, then moved onto the pasture country that has been spelled for four months. Twinners are kept in mobs under 200 while singles graze in 400.

Alpacas are introduced with a fox baiting program with the Local Land Services and neighbours.

“This year pasture crops hadn’t come away sufficiently for the twinners so we put self-feeders into the paddock up until the point of lambing,” Mr Ricketts said.

“We lamb from May 1 for about five weeks and as soon as they finish we drift them on to the grazing crops to get them going,” Mr Rickets said.