Report Synopsis

Diversification in Western New South Wales Wool Enterprises

Felicity McLeod

If ever there was a case for this study into diversification in the rangelands and the need to explore the potential for improving efficiencies on property and spread risk, the drought that is gripping much of eastern Australia, this is it. However, the drought was not the driver for this report. The driver was about managing for the future and improving long-term economic viability and sustainability, in a climate that is predictable in as much as the rainfall is unpredictable.

The author, who works more than 121,000 hectares (ha) in Far Western New South Wales (NSW) – along with members of her family – returned from her Nuffield research to mustering stock for trucking out. Normally, the task would have been lamb marking and crutching but in the previous 18 months, a large portion of ewes and lambs and nearly all cattle had been sold due to a lack of rain. From January to October 2017, only 50mm had fallen and by year’s end the tally was around 160mm, coming in lots of 2mm and 4mm here and there, which does little for growing feed. The following year (2018) received 111mm of total rainfall.

This is not new. In the Western Division of NSW, the rainfall is at times well below averages and unreliable, with stock numbers managed on a groundcover basis, rather than rainfall totals. Management of this groundcover and the availability of water for livestock use are the main limiting factors facing pastoralists in the region. The low rainfall also means that the available pasture needs to be managed and utilised in the most appropriate manner. Recent resurgences of wild dog numbers are also of growing concern to pastoralists across NSW.

The family business, centred between Broken Hill and Wentworth, is focussed on Merino sheep, beef cattle and more recently Dorpers, along with managing the rangeland goat population. Against this backdrop, this study set out to investigate how wool growers in the Rangelands of the Western Division of NSW can: 

  • Run a multispecies enterprise;
  • Optimise use of available resources;
  • Manage predation issues;
  • Explore possibilities for improving efficiencies on property, that help decrease costs and streamline the day-to-day running of the business.

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