Genetics key for SAMMs

Jenne Brammer
Sandown SAMM business partners Graham Sutherland and Tony Abbey with a flock of AI ewes due to lamb in three to four weeks.

Fifteen years since importing their first Prime Samm (South African Meat Merino) genetics, Sandown stud principals Tony Abbey and Graham Sutherland now feel their operation is in good shape.

"We probably have enough genetics within the stud to last us 30 years," Mr Abbey said.

"We will keep our eyes open and occasionally add a new ram if we see room for improvement, but in the main the genetics are where we want them to be," he said.

Sandown, based at Badgingarra, started importing the Prime Samm genetics from South Africa in 2000.

In much of that time the two principals travelled to South Africa annually to access some of the best Samm genetics the country has on offer.

Over that time, Mr Abbey and Mr Sutherland have purchased rams, shares of rams, semen and ewes.

Because of legal requirements, these were used while still based in South Africa, with resulting embryos imported to WA.

Mr Abbey estimates they have imported about 2000 Samm embryos over the years, which were implanted into surrogate sheep during the phase of building up their flock.

As a result of these efforts, the Sandown Samm Stud is renowned for breeding sheep with a fast growth rate, high fertility, good maternal instincts, good milk production, white wool quality and desirable carcase measurements.

Mr Abbey said nowadays, about 1000 stud ewes are joined with their top 20-25 rams annually on the Badgingarra property, usually achieving about 110-120 per cent lambing.

The high lambing is a further feature of the Samm breed.

"This year, our maidens showed 45 per cent had twins at preg testing," he said.

The lambs from the first matings are expected to drop within the next week. Mr Abbey said of the lambs born each year, the top 300 males are then selected and kept for the stud's own use, or to be sold as stud or commercial animals.

An on-farm sale auctioning about 80-100 rams is held annually in late September, a top price of $7100 being achieved about six years ago.

Sandown also auctions a further 20 rams at the Mingenew Expo each year and has rams available for private sale.

The Sandown customer base comes from all over Australia. Sandown has also attracted customers for semen and embryos from New Zealand, and has sold semen to the Government and a private customer in the Falklands.

Mr Abbey said his main objective going forward was to continue improving the wool quality and to make further improvements to the already-strong fertility, growth rates and carcase measurements.

"In the past, Samms have had a bad name for not having very good wool, but that is now pretty well under control," he said.

"Our Samms produce a 21 micron, basically, when crossed with Merinos. The ewe cuts about 4kg and ram about 5kgs."

He said there was hardly any difference in the weight of the wool clip, which is still classed as Merino wool, when Samms are crossed with Merinos.

"However, the Samm infusion will give a hybrid vigour of up to 20 per cent in lambing increases," he said.

Mr Abbey said the Samms could be described as a very "carefree" breed. "The breed is very easy to run," he said.