Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Bringing back sheep pays off for Riverina farmer

Re-introducing sheep to his mixed-farming enterprise was a daunting prospect for Murray Scholz but the decision has reduced risk, increased profits and created unexpected opportunities.

Murray ScholzThe Culcairn-based farmer will talk about the decisions, implementation and outcomes of bringing back sheep to the farm in a keynote address at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation’s annual Livestock Forum on Friday 26 July in Wagga Wagga.

“If you’d asked me about sheep five years ago I would have said they were hard work and wouldn’t fit within our farming system,” Mr Scholz said.

“But in 2014 we began considering if sheep could add value to our existing dryland cropping and beef enterprise by allowing for winter crop grazing and providing another option to help control herbicide resistant ryegrass.”

Mr Scholz said the decision was carefully considered with a clear set of goals in mind.

“The new enterprise needed to fit into our existing operations without causing compromises that would have an impact on the total farm profitability,” Mr Scholz said.

“We decided on a first-cross ewe operation to produce prime lambs, with a June lambing to make the most of crop grazing opportunities.

“Importantly we also made the decision to invest in a new set of sheep yards knowing that poor infrastructure makes tasks difficult and that was something we didn’t want in this new enterprise. We also realised there was a lot to learn and we found the Lifetime Ewe Management Course very useful.”

Mr Scholz said the farming mix has evolved over time to include more lucerne and grazing crops, narrower row spacing, and more recently the use of cover crops.

“Making a change can mean stepping out of a comfort zone and adding challenges to the decision making,” Mr Scholz said. “In our experience incorporating a sheep enterprise has been very successful, meeting our aims of reducing risk and increasing profit while helping our cropping enterprise to be more sustainable.”

Mr Scholz is featured in a video series ‘Crops, Rumps and Woolly Jumpers’ to be launched by Sheep Connect NSW at the Livestock Forum.

The 'Crops, Rumps and Woolly Jumpers’ project is coordinated by Sheep Connect NSW, with support from the Graham Centre and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).  Videos and case studies document the experiences of five farmers in 2012 and then again in 2017.

Registration for the Graham Centre livestock Forum is available online here (https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=508622&) and the cost of $25 per person and includes morning tea and lunch.