Building the Business and Livestock Numbers




Brad and Mary Rowe





Average Rainfall:




Wool, Sheep meat, Grain


Farm Area:

3400 ha (300 ha arable, 3100 ha grazing)


With the relatively recent purchase of a property near Coolillie on Eyre Peninsula, Brad & Mary Rowe have started the massive task of building their new business and livestock numbers. Having a clear vision and identifying the high priority tasks has been a key strategy.  


Brad and Mary Rowe settled on their new property in January 2018. Since then significant work has been undertaken to get fences, water and shed infrastructure to a point where sheep can be managed. There was no improved pastures and an unknown fertiliser history.

‘Currabie’ consists of native grass/medic pastures on the dominant calcareous soils common on western Eyre Peninsula.

The Rowe’s run a self-replacing Merino flock with 750 ewes, lambing in June/July and shearing in October. Marking percentage in 2019 was 75%. In 2020, all ewes were scanned (123%) and separated into twins and singles. They assessed what feed was available feed in the paddock, and balanced the ration up using lick feeders supplementing barley from December through to mid lambing. The lamb marking percentage for 2020 was 97%. Scanning in 2021 was 140%, so the Rowe’s are expecting the marking percentage to be 100 plus.  

Business challenges

With taking on a new property Brad & Mary have been faced with a number of challenges. This includes poor boundary fencing, resulting in stray sheep from other properties. Wildlife (kangaroos, wombats & emus) are common in the area and cause significant damage to fences and crops as well overgrazing pastures which are being rested.

The property perimeter is 24kms. Of this 18 kms was inadequate to hold stock. Brad and Mary have completed the replacement of 12.2kms boundary fence to date. The new fence is constructed with exclusion netting and steel posts. They hope to complete the boundary fencing by the end of 2021.

The high pH, low fertility unarable soils create a challenge for pasture composition and plant density. They have done some preliminary soil testing and will be doing more in the coming years for tactical trace element and phosphorus application. Currently low phosphorous is severely limiting pasture growth rates.

With the need to update and repair infrastructure and build livestock numbers, finance has been a major challenge.

Business planning

The key goals for the business over next 5 years include:

  • Building stock numbers – starting with 350 ewes, they aim to build this to 1200 ewes.
  • Exclusion fence the perimeter – this will involve erecting 20 kms of fencing with a material cost of $6500/km. Fortunately the fences were so poor the neighbours couldn’t deny they needed attention. Resolving fencing disputes has however been time consuming and slow.
  • Improve pastures through the introduction of new plant species, fertiliser & trace elements and controlled grazing.
  • Decrease paddock size – currently they have 9 paddocks and 4 small holding paddocks. The Rowe’s will be undertaking some trials to determine the optimal paddock size for their mob sizes, target grazing pressure and days spent in each paddock. This figure is yet to be determined.  
  • Improve lamb survival – target is to achieve 125% weaning from ewes joined. This will be achieved by selecting ewes for do-ability and fertility, and increasing the time spent by ewe at the birth site by having more pasture feed on offer during lambing

Strategies to build numbers

The Rowe’s started their flock by purchasing ewes aged 4 ½ to 5 ½ years old, some with lambs at foot.

Due to the cost of purchasing ewes, the Rowe’s are now breeding up their ewe numbers. Ewes are culled if they are dry at marking, and if they suffer from flystrike. Cast for age ewes are sold at 6 ½ or when they are broken mouth. When they reach the target ewe number, they will start culling on wool traits and growth rate.  

The Rowe’s are attempting to graze paddocks down to approximately 300 kg/ha dry matter and then move the sheep into a fresh paddock.  They will be aiming to increase the amount of dry matter left behind and will be more closely monitoring the grazing pressure that is applied to favourable species.

Lambing percentages has increased by managing supplementary feeding and mineral supplementation to pregnant/lambing ewes. Ewes are given supplementary minerals eight months of the year. They are supplemented with grain from December through to mid-July (on average). The Rowe’s have feed tested some of the dry matter in the paddock and using industry benchmarks have calculated how much energy the ewes require at each stage of pregnancy. They then tailor the level of grain supplementation to match the ewe’s requirements. Brad and Mary feel they are getting better at this. Initially there was challenges with many ewes not using the lick feeders well.

All the lambs are introduced to lick feeders at weaning now to ensure they learn to use them well. Judging on body condition score there is still some ewes who do not consume grain. Training ewes on feeder use must not be underestimated.  

Livestock health is important. Feacal egg counts and larval culture (if high enough counts) is done through Dawbutts Labs. Weaners have been blood tested for mineral deficiencies. Weaner sheep are treated with cobalt bullets and B12. Zinc deficiency has been identified. This has been corrected through providing loose lick supplementation for the first 12 month of the lamb’s life and then loose lick supplementation 8 months out of 12 for the remainder of their life.

Pregnancy scanning has allowed us to identify dry ewes; these are sold. They wet and dry ewes at lamb marking. This will help us identify ewes that have not successfully reared a lamb to marking. These ewes will also be sold.

Rams are selected based on ASBV’s and visual appraisal. Rams are selected on a positive Y-fat, eye muscle area (EMA) and staple length.

Technology use

The Rowe’s are using a few technologies to aid in management including cameras daily for water monitoring; electronic identification eartags in all sheep – to record pregnancy status, weights, gender & treatments; a BreedElite autodrafter.

Poor or non-existent phone coverage saw the need to install a booster network setup in the house and sheds area. In time they will investigate other options to improve the signal across the farm. This will allow them to incorporate more data-based technology easily.

Lessons learnt

Brad and Mary Rowe still have a long way to go in building their business and flock, however some key lessons learnt to date, include:

  • Identify the challenges that need to be overcome to assist other improvements.
  • Focus on educating sheep to use lick feeders
  • Have a clear goal of the flock objectives
  • Buy the best quality equipment you can afford – repair bills on old equipment adds up.