Brian and Rosh Lewis with some of their White Suffolk-cross sheep at Grahams Valley, near Glencoe.

Producing top quality suckers near Glencoe

Brian and Rosh Lewis made the shift from Poll Dorset rams to White Suffolks eight years ago, and the decision has paid off.

NEW England lamb producers Brian and Rosh Lewis are getting good results with White Suffolk rams, with their lambs achieving strong prices and impressive results in one of the top prime lamb competitions in the country.

The couple runs about 500 ewes, alongside a cattle enterprise, over about 485 hectares at “Euroka” and “Killara”, Grahams Valley, near Glencoe.

The Lewis family – the couple works in partnership with Mr Lewis’ parents, Darrell and Dawn – has been using White Suffolk rams for the past eight years after a shift from Poll Dorsets.

Mr Lewis said he focuses on structure and type, looking for good muscle and length, when selecting rams bred by Dugald and Bec McIndoe at Smithston Farms, Glencoe.

The rams are joined to crossbred ewes bred by Mr Lewis to produce a second-cross lamb.

The shift to White Suffolks has paid off, particularly in tough seasons.

“When it starts getting dry the Poll Dorsets put all their effort into growing wool, instead of meat and carcase, but Dugald’s lambs seem to look fresher when it stays dry.

“In past dry seasons when we’ve had to feed the cattle we haven’t had to feed the sheep – they’re able to hold on for longer.”

About 100 ewes are kept every second year and remaining lambs are either sold through saleyards at Glen Innes or Guyra, or go direct to an abattoir in Tamworth.

“They used to go Wallangarra (on the Queensland border) which suited us, but they’ve been going to Thomas Foods at Tamworth,” Mr Lewis said.

Most of the lambs are sold as suckers, about five months of age, and usually weighing from 50 kilograms to 60kg.

The lambs are purely grassfed, on improved pastures which include a mix of fescues and ryegrass.

“We also try to spread superphosphate every 12 months, if not, every two years, and it makes a big difference to pastures and stock weights,” Mr Lewis said.

“The aim is to improve a paddock every two years on each place.”

The family had a chance to celebrate its hard work with success in the annual Dubbo Show prime lamb hoof and hook competition last year. It was the second time the commercial producers had tested their sheep against some of the top studs in the country after entering a pen in the 2016 event.

In 2017 they sent three pens of six lambs, and the decision paid off. The Lewis lambs were second in the heavy export hoof class, and they had the heaviest lamb in the show. 

“The pen average was 75kg and he weighed about 89kg,” Mr Lewis said.

The family also had the heaviest carcase in show at 52kg, with the highest dressing percentage of 61 per cent.

Their lambs were first, second and third in the White Suffolk heavy export hook class – with Mr McIndoe’s Smithston Farms lambs in third place in the heavy export classes – and they came first overall in the all breeds heavy export hook class. 

“We also received the Dubbo agents choice award and were the most successful exhibitors,” Mrs Lewis said.

"We were very surprised, especially because not one lamb had any grain – they were all just grassfed.”

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