CROYDON TOPS GEELONG
By Jamie-Lee Oldfield, Courtesy of Stock and Land
21 October, 2013
THE Geelong Show turned into the Deppeler family show during the stud sheep interbreed competition at the weekend.
Michael Deppeler's Croydon stud won the top honours with his Corriedale ram being sashed supreme sheep of the show.
The ram had alreasy been awarded the Yvonne & Alan Deppeler Memorial Trophy for champion ram or ewe of the Corriedale, Suffolk and White Suffolk breeds, champion long wool sheep of show, champion ram of the show and supreme Corriedale exhibit.
By a New Zealand sire from the Foster stud, and out of a ewe whose lineage goes back to original Croydon bloodlines, the champion ram will be kept on by Mike Deppeler and used within the stud.
Mike Deppeler and his Corriedale bet out brother Doug Deppeler and his Suffolk ewe for the supreme sheep accolades.
Doug Deppeler's champion ewe of the show was also the supreme Suffolk exhibit – a June 2011 born ewe with a July 2013-drop ewe lamb at foot.
Deppeler Suffolks also won champion lamb of the show with their Suffolk ram lamb.
A team of Corriedales from Bron Ellis’ Sweetfield stud won the interbreed champion group of three, while four Chandpara Southdowns exhibited by Andrew Sellars-Jones were sashed ASSBA champion group.
In the Texel feature breed showing, it was the Jorgenson family’s Mertex stud who took out supreme exhibit with their champion ewe – a sheep that was also sashed WFI Texel ewe of the year.
The Southdown national show, held annually in conjunction with Geelong, saw the largest line-up of the breed for the year.
Supreme Southdown exhibit was won by the Dehnert family’s Fernhill stud with a big upstanding ewe and a July 2013-drop ewe lamb at foot.
SOUTHDOWNS IMPRESS AT MELBOURNE
By Dannika Bonser, Courtesy of Stock and Land
24 September, 2013
THE quality line-up of Southdowns impressed both the judge and onlookers alike, despite the fact there were only two studs competing.
Fernhill Southdown stud, Ballan, rose to the top of both the ewe and ram classes, with their ram eventually going on to become supreme exhibit.
The ram came from the under 1.5 years class, with Fernhill principal Graham Denhert saying he had “had him picked out since he was born”.
The ram was sired via artificial insemination using semen from a New Zealand stud.
Throughout the classes judge Ian Kyle said he was very impressed with the exhibits.
“The classes may have been small, but the quality would stand up at any show,” he said.
Mr Kyle said the grand champion ram had “perfect style, perfect balance, and potential to be a major influence on the breed”.
Champion ewe also worked her way up from the under 1.5 years class.
Mr Kyle applauded her length and balance, and said she “had a huge future ahead”.
Mr Denhert said he was pleased with the increasing interest in the stud following their appearance at several shows throughout the year, which included two reserve champions at Bendigo this year.
CHANDPARA SWEEPS SOUTHDOWNS
By Dannika Bonser, Courtesy of Stock and Land
24 July, 2013
A YOUNG ram from Chandpara Southdowns, Tylden, won champion ram for his "outstanding form and composition".
Earlier this year, the ram was sashed supreme champion at the Canterbury Show in New Zealand, beating more than 600 exhibits.
Judge Barry Shalders said he wasn't quite the scale of the ewe but "all meat".
"He catches your eye when he walks out, just shows himself off beautifully," he said.
Owner Andrew Sellars-Jones (pictured) said the ram was sired using semen from Clifton Downs, NZ, last year.
"He has had a very successful show career in New Zealand," he said.
"He bred well last year and I've used him heavily this year."
Mr Sellars-Jones said he bred the Southdowns because they lambed well, were good mothers and crossed well with Merino ewes.
"The beauty is the length of the loins," he said, "there's quite a bit more to them than in some other breeds."
FARMING THE WESTERN WAY
By Louise Preece, Courtesy of Stock and Land
23 November, 2012
AFTER farming the rolling bluegum country at Arawata for 130 years, the Western family reveal the key behind their longevity has been a long-held commitment to diversification.
Phil Western – who operates two properties totalling 550 hectares with his wife Beth and parents John and Doreen in Gippsland – is the fourth generation of the family to farm the land.
His great-grandfather John migrated from English shores to Arawata in 1882, clearing the landscape for future generations.
The family said the first sheep to graze the property's green paddocks were eaten by dingos, but that initial experience in Australia failed to put the Westerns off agriculture.
Today, they have a farming history that dates back more than a century.
And while farming has been a constant, Phil and his father John say the operation has always adapted to changing markets over the decades.
"My grandfather came from Devon and was a great believer in Devon cattle," John said.
In the past 50 years alone, the family have moved from finishing Hereford cattle to turning off regular F1 heifer drafts.
"This is prime finishing country – green year-round," John said.
The F1 heifer enterprise began as a way to diversify the family's income.
"It was a profitable way of growing out dairy-bred cattle into vealer mothers," he said.
In a good year, prices could fetch up to $1200.
Angus-Friesian heifers were bought in at 12-18 months and joined to a Limousin bull, and then sold on the point of calving through the local saleyards.
From a management point of view, the operation has now been simplified.
"We were involved in a feature sale at Koonwarra, which still happens today," John said.
But the latest change happened five years ago when Phil's passion for breeding took a front seat on their farm.
"We started moving into Angus cows and calves – it's something I'd always wanted to do," Phil said.
The operation is assisted by a second farm at Tarwin Lower where 500 Angus cows are joined to Angus bulls on the sandy country, and additional land is leased.
"All the breeding is done at the Tarwin Lower farm," Phil said.
Joining starts in October and is carried out over six weeks in the case of the heifers and eight for the cows.
"We buy top-quality bulls on fertility, growth rates, muscle and structure," Phil said.
While the herd is still growing, the Westerns retain all heifers.
"We are trying to get a younger herd," he said.
In spring, the herd calves down, followed by yard-weaning four to five months later.
"Yard-weaning is a big job but the aim is to end up with quiet cattle that are easy to handle with dogs," John said.
"We feed them hay and silage to help with their temperament too."
All up, there are 10 dogs onthe farm, which Doreen saidwere "important" members of the family.
After weaning, the cows and steer calves remain at Tarwin Lower while the heifers are shifted to Arawata to be joined when they reach 14-15 months.
At eight months of age, the steers are sold in a large line at the Leongatha saleyards.
"We are just starting to get some consistency with our breeding now," Phil said.
"It's rewarding to see those results and that repeat buyers are coming back every year."
Temperament is a big drawcard for buyers of the Western cattle.
This year they averaged $640 a head across 200 steers.
Alongside the family's cattle, about 1900 Border Leicester-Merino ewes are run.
About 350 are purchased at a young age for prime lamb production.
"Ewe prices have been high but you have to bear the pain to maintain a flock," John said.
Phil and his father say the two operations worked well together.
"We went into cows and calves for management reasons," John said.
"We can give the sheep free reign in spring to finish off the lambs."
The ewes are joined to South-down, Poll Dorset and White Suffolk rams in March for an August lambing.
Phil said the three breeds produced a well-muscled lamb.
"We used to run our own Southdown stud – they do well over the maiden ewes," he added.
At the moment, the family are experimenting with breeding their own composite ewes with the goal of producing a self-replacing flock.
"We need to put a bit more length and stretch in them yet," Phil said.
The lambs are drenched twice before being marketed as suckers at five to six months or 20-22 kilograms.
"We sell them directly over-the-hook and some as store lambs," John said.
The severe drop in lamb prices over the past six months has yet to make an impact on the family's bottom line.
"We've been watching the market – prices have dropped from 490 cents/kg last year to 310c/kg," John said.
"Our lambs are sold in January so we'll have to wait and see what things are like then.
"There is talk out there that some contracts have been higher, but until then we'll just have to tighten our belts."
Markets can be volatile but John said it was something farmers had to deal with.
"Sheep and cattle complement each other and it is worth the workload," John said.
"It's good to be diversified."
And it seems the next chapter for the Westerns is still unfolding.
"It's about picking up little ideas along the way to see where you can be more efficient, and improving all the time," Phil said.
CHANDPARA SOUTHDOWNS’ HOT SALE
By Struan Pearce, Courtesy of Stock and Land
04 December, 2011
HOT was the word Arthur Hoopell used to describe the Chandpara Southdown annual production sale held last Friday on-property at Tylden.
Buying at Chandpara for the past six years, the Hoopells, Woodend, were blown away by the strong contingent of new buyers that drove prices to $3100 for rams and $950 for ewes.
Overall, 48 rams averaged $1415 and 11 ewes av $855.
Andrew Hogarth and Aneika Crosswell, Kirkdale Southdowns, Evandale, Tasmania – keen to secure the reserve champion ram at the 2011 Australian Sheep & Wool Show – paid the top price.
The clean-faced, meaty ram with excellent length and type will be used as a stud sire to introduce new paternal bloodlines to the Kirkdale Stud.
First-time Chandpara buyer Tim Fincham, Burando Southdowns, Winchelsea, took home two rams, one at $3000 and the second at $2500, which was the twin to the sale-topping ram.
Graeme Dehnert, Fernhill Southdowns, Ballan, also paid $3000 for a ram and joined forces with New Zealand Southdown breeder John Macaulay, Tahrua Stud, to purchase lot 8 at $2600.
Mr Macaulay travelled to Australia earlier in the year as part of the NZ Southdown Society Tour and had taken a liking to the ram, in particular his paternal bloodlines.
He will use the ram’s semen in his stud, while the Dehnerts will use him as a sire.
Returning client Peter Bailey, Aramat Pastoral Co, Yarrawonga, was active throughout the top end of the sale, paying to $2100, av $1592, for seven rams.
However the sale’s biggest volume buyer was Mathew Puddicombe, Penmore, Darraweit Guim, taking 11 rams to $1350.
The Puddicombes have been using Chandpara Southdown rams for 11 years over their Border Leicester-East Friesian-Merino ewes because of their ease of lambing and high lambing percentages.
Rob McCrabb, Landmark Warrnambool, was also active throughout the sale, purchasing one ram at $2500 on behalf of AW&CM Douglas and Son, Woolsthorpe, to be used as a stud sire.
He also operated on behalf of clients ED&LR McKenzie, Timboon, buying six rams av $1325.
The McKenzies run a commercial prime lamb operation and will use the Southdowns over Coopworth ewes with lambs destined for the domestic market.
Tim Robinson, Paul & Scollard Albury, travelled to the sale with first-time client Malcolm Everitt, Albury, and secured two rams av $1150.
Mr Robinson also represented two other clients, purchasing five rams to be used over first-cross maiden ewes.
The ewe offering saw spirited bidding with only three buyers taking home ewes.
All & Jo Partnership, Digby, started their Southdown flock this year and were keen to buy numbers, ending up with six ewes av $833, while Beth McDonald, Edgcumbe Southdowns, Cavendish, took four at $913.
Stud principal and Southdown Australia secretary Andrew Sellars-Jones was thrilled with the result of the sale, saying it was testament to the resurgence in popularity for the Southdowns, with both on-property and paddock sales being buoyed by huge demand that far outweighed supply this year.
He has more stud ewes for sale in the New Year.
MARKETING LAMB AS FASHIONABLE
By Zoe Moroz, Courtesy of Stock and Land
14 November, 2011
BUTCHER shops across the country have been turned into high-end fashion stores for Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) spring lamb campaign.
Brendon Watts’ butcher shop, Brendon’s Quality Meats, is among selected stores with the Louis Vuitton-inspired finish, as part of the Lamboutique campaign launched in time for the spring racing season.
The Doncaster butcher is an old-hand when it comes to red meat marketing and is strong advocate of MLA promotions.
“I love the creative side of what it brings to the industry,” Mr Watts said.
“It’s an opportunity to create interest. I’m a traditional butcher but I do everything that is contemporary.”
The wall of Mr Watt’s shop is covered in 42 years of memories, including photos with Sam Kekovich during the launch of the Australia Day campaign.
Mr Watts says dedicated prime lamb producers have made a big difference to the product he is able to provide to consumers.
“There is a significant difference now with dedicated breeders – the product is far more consistent than we’ve ever seen,” he said.
“Southdowns were built like a tank and were fatty as anything. Now, with dedicated breeders and science, we’ve come a long way forward.”
And it is the consistency and traceability of the product that Mr Watts says is the key to creating interest in red meat.
“I have to supply a very good product that meets my clients’ expectations,” he said.
“It’s not about changing – you don’t want to wait until the last option to change.
“Perception is everything. I can’t afford to compete with Coles and Woolworths – they’re getting good at what they do and it has to have an impact.”
He says price pointing is important in today’s market as consumers become more conscious about what they spend.
“Lamb backstraps now cost $23.70/kg wholesale,” he said.
“But butchers make less of lamb backstraps than when we sold them for $7.90/kg.”
After paying between $7.20-$7.40/kg for lamb earlier in the year, before falling to $5.80 and which now hovers about $6.20/kg, Mr Watts says he doesn’t want to see the price come back any further than $5.50/kg, in the interests of all parties.
“It’s a good price for producers. It’s an incentive to grow their flocks and produce a consistent product at a consistent price,” he said.
“We can’t afford for it to be too expensive other it will have a damaging affect. It’s about the while package.”
But for Mr Watts it’s a labor of love.
He moved his shop to Doncaster in 1991 after establishing his business in Bridge Road, Richmond, 11 years earlier.
“The demographic of Richmond changed,” Mr Watts said.
“There were five butcher shops in Bridge Road when I left and five years later the last one closed.”
Mr Watts had hoped to be a chef until he started a part-time job with a local butcher.
“The owner drove a Pontiac and never worked, the manager drove a Fairlane, the butcher drove a Valiant and they all had good looking women,” he said.
“I never went back to school. But to know what I know now, and still find it so interesting and inspiring is the best thing.”
HOOPER’S SHOW TRADITION
By Brian Clancy, Courtesy of Weekly Times
28 September, 2011
GRAEME Hooper is one loyal Royal Melbourne Show sheep exhibitor.
Graeme, who runs perhaps Australia's largest Southdown stud, Clear Hills, at Goorambat near Benalla, has attended the show for more than 50 years.
He lists history and competition as the two reasons. For many years, it would also have been marketing and the opportunity to buy and sell stud rams.
"I don't play any sport, like tennis or golf, so the show ring competition is my enjoyment," Graeme says.
He says sheep shows have changed in his time.
The numbers of entries and exhibitors have dwindled, for a variety of reasons. Exhibitors are at the show for just four days and there is no longer a stud sale.
"In the past, you would come to the show if you wanted to buy
a top stud ram," he said.
"Today the on-property sales have taken over."
This year's show attracted 30 exhibitors, with about 240 sheep representing 13 breeds.
The Southdowns had three exhibitors, with 20 sheep. Graeme had six of those and picked up the champion ewe.
The champion ram went to Fernhill stud, from Ballan.
But despite the small entry numbers, Graeme said demand for Southdown rams was strong.
"I can't produce enough of them," he said, referring to his annual sale of 130 rams.
Graeme also runs a Poll Dorset stud, and rams are sold locally in North East Victoria, but Graeme said demand for the Southdowns came from everywhere.
Noted for its ease of lambing, the Southdown is popular with prime lamb producers wanting to join first-cross ewe lambs, he said. Breeders wanting to improve carcass quality, also looked to the Southdown
GOOD SIGNS FOR SOUTHDOWN LAMBS
By Brian Clancy, Courtesy of Weekly Times
14 September, 2011
THEY may have a heritage tag, but according to its breeders the Southdown has a sound commercial future. "Heritage only means it has a lot of history behind it," said Melbourne veterinarian Andrew Sellars-Jones, who runs the Chandpara Southdowns stud at Tylden, between Woodend and Trentham.
AT A GLANCE
Who: Andrew Sellars-Jones
What: Southdown sheep stud
Why: Good mothering and crossbred progeny are good meat sheep
Chandpara is one of about 35 Southdown studs in Australia, half of which are in Victoria.
Many of the studs are small operations with a strong affinity to preserving a breed which has long been described as "dark, dumpy and woolly-headed" but with a strong reputation for its ease of lambing.
Chandpara on the other hand is one of the breed's larger operations, lambing down 100 ewes.
Andrew's affinity for the breed began in 1974 when as a 10-year-old he was given two Southdown ewes. Fourteen years later he registered his stud.
After the dispersal of the late Geoff Baker's Southern Pastures stud, which was one of the breed's most influential, Andrew believes Chandpara could now be Victoria's second or third largest behind the Hooper family's Clear Hills stud at Goorambat.
"The biggest problem for us is keeping up with the demand for rams," Andrew said.
He is adamant that in the past 20 years the breed has moved a long way from being "dark, dumpy and woolly-headed".
With fairly extensive selection pressures applied by Australian studs and with help from New Zealand genetics, Andrew said today's Southdown was longer, heavier and keenly sought by butchers.
He also selects for shape of rump. Andrew says the modern Southdown still retains a slender shoulder which is the key to its reputation for ease of lambing and as a sire to join to maiden ewes.
And as for the Southdown characteristic square woolly face, Andrew said he preferred a sheep with less wool on the face, particularly for clients in districts prone to grass seed problems.
While ease of lambing remained a major attribute, Andrew said New Zealand research had highlighted the tenderness and eating ability of a Southdown-cross prime lamb.
Andrew artificially inseminates most of his ewes using the best of the New Zealand and local sires including the Southern Pastures bloodline.
He uses AI rather than buying rams or ewes to protect the stud's biosecurity.
The stud is brucellosis accredited and carries an MN3 flock status under the Johne's disease market assurance program. And for added safety, Andrew vaccinates his sheep against Johne's disease.
He also uses an embryo transplant program from his elite ewes.
The ewes lamb July-August with lambing percentages rarely under 160 per cent.
Andrew said he could run a much larger breeding base, but preferred to mate only 100 ewes to maintain a tighter selection pressure.
Unlike other studs which also run commercial prime lamb flocks, Andrew is happy to concentrate on a stud flock, which share the farm with a 250-cow Poll Hereford breeding herd.
Chandpara is the only Victoria Southdown stud conducting a farm auction of rams and ewes, to be held this year on November 25.
Last year it cleared 35 rams to a top of $3100 and an average of $1040.
Buyers came from Gippsland, central Victoria, the Western District and Tasmania.
This year Andrew is planning to auction 45 rams plus a selection of stud ewes.
In a highly competitive prime lamb market dominated by Poll Dorset, White Suffolk, composite and Dorper sires, Andrew said the Southdown breed could do more to market itself.
He uses the Bendigo Sheep Show and breed's national show at Geelong in October to market the Chandpara bloodline.
At Bendigo in July in a showing of 35 entries by five exhibitors, Chandpara was the most successful exhibitor and won both the ram and ewe champions.
DIVERSITY DRIVEN BY THE DOLLAR
By Nicola Bell, Courtesy of The Land
25 February, 2011
THE lambs come first on “Wandoo”, Andrew and Trish Metcalfe’s 2000-hectare, family-run property at Grenfell.
This sentiment carries throughout the whole operation as the aim, according to Mr Metcalfe, is to produce good quality prime lambs.
And you can’t blame him for operating this way either – with a single lamb currently worth about the same as a tonne of wheat.
“I sold lambs for $160 a few weeks ago, and I just received $170 – before costs are taken out
– for a tonne of wheat,” Mr Metcalfe said.
While the focus is on prime lamb production, Mr Metcalfe, a former Western Australian farmer, said they also ran 200 Angus cows and their progeny, as well as dual-purpose winter crops and lucerne.
The Metcalfes run 3100 crossbred ewes, which are joined to Southdown or Poll Dorset rams, as well as 1200 Merino ewes, which are joined to Border Leicester rams to produce replacement first-cross ewes.
The Poll Dorset rams are joined to the mature ewes, while the Southdowns are joined to the ewe lambs.
Mr Metcalfe said joining the smaller Southdown rams to young ewe lambs meant by the time the ewes were 18-months-old, they had weaned one lamb and would be pregnant with their second one.
While the issue of joining sheep too young can be controversial, Mr Metcalfe said he found they bred better and for longer, as he generally kept breeding ewes until “their teeth fall out”.
To ensure fertility and production was high, all ewes were scanned-in-lamb (SIL) each year, with those not in lamb sold.
The ewe lambs, however, were given a second chance if not in lamb the first time.
On average, about 85 per cent of the ewe lambs were SIL, and of that number, a 130pc lambing rate was achieved, as twins were common with the Southdown-cross.
“The secret to a good lambing rate is to never go near them – watch them, but don’t go overboard or they become too flighty,” said Mr Metcalfe.
With the ewes joined in November, scanning usually took place while the rams were still in the paddock, and from there the ewes were split into mobs carrying twins or singles.
The rams were then left in with the “undetectables” until the end of February, after which the ewes were scanned again and the empty ewes were removed.
“Doing it this way means it breaks lambing up and I can get the nutrition right if I know whether the ewes are carrying twins,” he said.
The main lambing was in April/May, so the lambs were on the ground before the cold and before grass seeds and flystrike became a problem, while the young ewes lambed during August.
One of the only problems Mr Metcalfe said he found with the Southdowns was that the rams were hard to source.
Having purchased rams from the Denholm family at Gower Southdown stud, Batlow, for the past few years, Mr Metcalfe said there weren’t many other places to source them from.
While Southdowns aren’t a common cross, Mr Metcalfe said he had a good market for them, with both the Southdown- and Poll Dorset-cross lambs usually sold through the Forbes saleyards as trade lambs.
“The Southdown lambs have a tremendous eye muscle, so they fit the trade market well.”
The Poll Dorset rams, which were joined to the mature ewes, were sourced from the Corcoran family’s Gooramma stud at Boorowa.
Since Christmas, Mr Metcalfe has sold more than 200 of the heavier lambs, both Southdown- and Poll Dorset-cross, for an average of $159.
He also sold another run of Southdown lambs for $179 at the start of February.
Mr Metcalfe generally started selling lambs as suckers – in about August/
September – until the price dropped, when he would shear them and start selling again in January.
“I like to spread the selling for better cashflow,” he said.
While the main focus of the operation at “Wandoo” was prime lamb production, Mr Metcalfe said the second focus was on producing dual-purpose crops.
By dual-purpose, he said, he meant crops like barley, Gregory wheat, oats and a new variety of dual-purpose canola, which he can graze the sheep on early, and still harvest for grain.
“Planting these kind of crops helps increase feed production in winter when the lambs need more nutrition.”
Dryland lucerne was also grown to graze on, while making clover and oaten hay helped to fill the “feed gaps”.
Even though Mr Metcalfe couldn’t emphasise enough that the main focus was on lamb production, he said the diversity on the property helped with cashflow, as well as animal health and management issues.
SOUTHERN PASTURES BOWS OUT
By Kate Dowler, Courtesy of Weekly Times
25 May, 2010
THE Baker family's Southern Pastures stud bowed out in style last week, as the family dispersed its well-known Southdown, Texel and Aussie Downs flocks at Simpson.str
A large crowd - many of whom were there out
of respect for the late Geoff Baker, who founded
the stud and died in March, aged 82 - saw the complete clearance of 255 ewes.
Many new Southdown studs took the opportunity to get into the breed. In all, 173 joined Southdown stud ewes sold, for an average of $1071.
Their unjoined sisters, 55 of them, averaged $518, while 24 Aussie Downs - a cross between the Southdown and Texels - averaged $479 and three Texels averaged $383.
In the small ram offering, six older sires averaged $2167, and younger rams made $1571 on balance. Only two rams were passed in.
The top prices were $3500 for a Southdown ewe and $4000 for a ram, paid by Ross Cowley of Southern Downs, Cobden.
Mr Cowley said he liked the temperament and bloodlines of his purchases.
"I think Geoff and his stud will be remembered by the fact that he was always for the benefit of the breed.
"It didn't matter who owned the sheep, he would always focus on the breed and improving it," he said.
The dispersal was also a significant day for the Dehnert family of Fernhill Southdown stud at Ballan.
Graeme Dehnert, his sister Lynette and their mother Jessie bought 52 ewes in all, to expand their Southdown flock.
Mr Dehnert said his father, Bert, and Geoff Baker had been great friends in sheep breeding.
Bert died when Mr Dehnert was 11 and Mr Baker was, from then on, "like a father figure" to the young boy.
"We used to talk on the phone every Sunday night for many years, and he taught me a great deal," Mr Dehnert said.
"His stud was one of the best going, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to get more of these bloodlines."
Mr Baker's sons, John and Peter, both dairy farmers, said they were very pleased the dispersal had gone so well.
"We hope that the people who bought the sheep get as much pleasure out of them as our Dad did," Peter said.
John said the decision to disperse the stud was difficult, as it was the end of an era.
But, he said, the family was glad to see the sheep go to individuals who shared Geoff's passion.
Peter said his father's memory had been a virtual catalogue of all the stud sheep.
"He lived for his sheep, and cattle too; he was a very good stockman," he said.
CHOPS AND CHANGE
By Jacqueline Forster, Courtesy of Fairfax Media
Rare lamb breeds return to favour, writes Jacqueline Forster. Though Australia's economy no longer rides on the merino's back, our lamb industry is still dominated by the merino. Now more producers are championing rare and heritage sheep breeds for their superior eating quality and robust constitution.
surgeon Ross Wilson is passionate about British Breeds. His stud, Cotties Run near Bathurst, produces Black Suffolk and Southdown sheep for sale to a burgeoning boutique meat industry. "These days people want to know what they're eating," Wilson says. "We found there was a market for pure and specialty breeds."
The attractive Black Suffolk, with dark heads and legs, and the stumpy, woolly-faced Southdown (often called baby-doll) look like picturebook sheep. Wilson admits "they make great paddock decoration" but there's more to these flocks. Southdowns were taken to England by the Romans and the breed is celebrated in Mrs Beeton's Book of household Management, the famed Victorian almanac of indispensable recipes, remedies and advice: "...the Southdown breed of sheep is highly valued for its delicate flavour...."
"Selectively bred, over the centuries, the meat just got better and better," Wilson says. "Worldwide, the Black Suffolk is still number one terminal sire - the sire that produces the prime lamb."
Sustainable meat supplier Feather and Bone's Grant Hilliard, says: "There's a bit of a craze on Southdowns at the moment because the meat is very fine textured and sweet. Four years ago I couldn't find them anywhere." Like the growers, he laments the quality of generic lamb.
"Previously in Australia, lamb was not differentiated by breed; only by where or how it was grown. You ate the dual purpose merino because it was more convenient to get wool off them as well," Hilliard says.
Moorland Biodynamic Lamb's Vince Heffernan says merino meat is "generally coarse and ropy and has fat in all the wrong places." Heffernan runs Texel sheep on his 1100hectare Demeter-certified biodynamic farm near Dalton, 100 kilometres north of Canberra, applying organic and biodynamic principles to balance ecosystems and improve soil structure.
Relatively uncommon in Australia, Texel originated on islands off the Netherlands coast and are favoured for their superior eating traits. "The meat has superb fine texture and while lean, the fat that it has is sweet and rich, which helps retain moisture when cooked," Heffernan says. "The Australian meat industry is built around a model for supplying lamb to the dominant supermarkets. Nowhere is taste a consideration; rather, how many loin chops fit neatly on to a tray. Our approach is polar opposite to this. "Biodynamic farming requires animals that are strong and don't need to be propped up with chemicals. Texels have a solid immune system and thrive under paddock conditions."
In seasonal terms, spring lamb supposedly represents the meat at its prime but Heffernan says the term is a misnomer. "Lamb available now is born out of season, in autumn, and fed on cereal crops until August. Ewes [except merinos] naturally ovulate from autumn on, so August-September lambing is the normal cycle. The spring-born lambs will not be ready to eat until December."
With lamb prices predicted to exceed beef, due to a national sheep shortage and adverse climatic conditions, it makes sense to shop for quality. Meat and Livestock Australia's
Sylvia Athas says: "Retail lamb price increases have continued to outstrip price increases for other meats." On average, lamb cost $14 a kilogram in 2009-10, up 5 per cent on the previous year. At the moment, as more new-season spring lambs come on to the market, saleyard prices have eased but prices are expected to remain higher than last year.
"It used to be that growers got less for the Southdown at market because it was out of fashion," Feather and Bone's Hilliard says. "Now the lamb market is through the roof so there's probably not a huge difference in the price [between specialist breeds and the usual merinocross lamb]. "It's a matter of finding the product," he says. "We've just taken delivery of 10 Southdowns and eight milk-fed Black Suffolks."
See cottiesrun.com.au and moorlandslamb.com.au. Moorlands is also sold at Cleavers Butchers, Neutral Bay; Eveleigh Farmers Markets; St Ives Farmers Markets and can be ordered online with pick up points in Canberra and Sydney, whole lamb $210, half $115. Bar none... flavour is the key to lamb.
BREEDERS DOWN TO BUSINESS
By Kim Woods, Courtesy of Weekly Times
7 September, 2009
RED apples and winter snow are images associated with the southern NSW mountain town of Batlow - certainly not prime lambs.
But locals Patricia Denholm and Ross Dickson are turning off Southdown rams which are finding homes in the NSW cropping areas.
Batlow, between Tumbarumba and Tumut, has an altitude of 800m and a 1400mm yearly rainfall.
It is certainly a challenge for any sheep producer, with snowfalls at lambing time and plenty of predators in the large tracts of adjacent forests.
Patricia and Ross like the modern Southdown's body length, minimal wool on the face and a carcass "chock full of meat".
The big plus of the Southdown, according to Patricia, is the shoulder conformation, ensuring easy lambing for maiden ewes.
"Our NSW clients with cropping interests are usually getting paddocks worked and sown in late winter, which coincides with lambing," Patricia said.
Ross, a director with Forests NSW, and Patricia, a workplace training assessor, run their Gower Southdown stud on 81ha freehold and 20ha leasehold.
The farm contains 48ha of remnant timber which is set aside for conservation.
In Ross's native New Zealand, Southdowns are widely used, but the breed is heritage-listed in Australia.
His father uses Southdowns over ewes on his farm, Gower Downs, near Cheviot on New Zealand's South Island.
Ross and Patricia run their flock with Angus-Limousin cows, whose progeny are turned off at domestic trade weights.
"Most of our 25 yearling rams go south to Victoria, but NSW clients are quietly appearing out of the woodwork seeking a terminal sire to use over medium-framed Merino ewes and first-cross ewe lambs," Patricia said.
"The resulting prime lamb ticks all the boxes, exhibiting high growth rates, desirable carcass characteristics and a high yield."
The couple moved to Australia from New Zealand in 2001 to work in the forestry industry at Batlow.
Foundation stock were bought in 2004 from Victorian Southdown studs Ivydowns and Southern Pastures.
Aussie Down ewes (Southdown-Texel cross) are also used in the program with Southdown rams to produce a high-yielding carcass.
The last consignment of July-drop lambs were sold at six months of age for $90 at an average 21kg dressed.
"There is no point producing a whopping great wether with a hindquarter a butcher can't sell as a roast," Patricia said.
"The Southdown over the Merino ewe adds a nice hindquarter to the carcass and a reasonable fat cover."
Patricia said the breed's short-stapled wool, popular for felting, was an advantage in the high rainfall.
Due to the property size, the couple have limited their stud ewe flock to 35 purebreds.
Most pasture renovation is done in late summer and early autumn, with pastures dry-sown last autumn.
Ross uses a Duncan oversowing drill, but also broadcasts seed in some paddocks.
High winter rainfall and summer storms keep feed growing year round.
The farm is self-sufficient in lucerne hay, with 70 large rounds and 1000 small square bales made last season.
"As soon as the lambs are weaned, the ewes go uphill on to improved pastures and later on to the undersown hay paddocks after harvest," Patricia said.
"We have 'leaky' fences of two electric tapes to let the sheep through, but not the cattle.
"We need to be careful the ewes don't get too fat in summer, reducing conception rates.
"Ewes are joined in late January with lambing starting in late July."
Once rams are removed, the ewes graze a forage rape and millet mix.
Ewes lamb in an open shed to prevent losses to bad weather and foxes.
They achieve a weaning rate of 155 per cent.
"Producing Southdown seedstock is only part of the equation in managing this small but productive farm," Patricia said.
The Weekly Times, November 23, 2005.
Stock and Land Advertisement 8th December 2005.
Stock and Land Advertisement 23rd October 2005.
USE SOUTHDOWN RAMS
For Easy Lambing
Join Southdown Rams to your ewe flock,
especially Maiden Ewes, Small Frame Merinos, or Ewe lambs.
This Will; a. Maximize Lamb and Ewe survival, and;
b. Minimize husbandry.
Southdown Australia Recommends the following Registered Breeders;
"Southern Pastures" - G. Baker - 03 5595 1585
"Clear Hills" - G. Hooper - 03 5762 2996
"Chandpara" - A. Sellars-Jones - 03 9826 9505
"Yentrac" - R. & A. McCartney - 03 5344 0541