By Jennie Curtis
At Roogulli Farm in the NSW Southern Tablelands, Jennie and Chris Curtis breed smaller Southdowns, which are marketed and dual registered as Babydoll sheep. Sheep bred in the Roogulli stud are sold all over Australia to people wanting smaller, easy handling sheep. They are not miniature but at the shorter end of the Southdown size spectrum and have more wool on their heads that the bigger Southdowns bred by other studs for use as terminal sires.
An advantage of the Babydoll-type of Southdown that Jennie sees for commercial operations such as vineyards, orchards and solar farms is their low reach. Their short height limits how far up they can reach to eat foliage and their surprisingly heavy bodies mean that they generally do not stand up on their hind legs to reach higher into the canopy. Their attractive appearance and easy going temperament makes them popular for agritourism ventures. Their efficient use of feed combined with excellent meat qualities (including mutton) offers opportunities to add a boutique boxed meat enterprise to existing horticultural and agritourism enterprises.
These smaller Southdowns are also popular for small farms. In small flocks their relatively calm nature makes them easy to train and they are more than happy to undertake mowing duties. In the small farm setting, the well-muscled body of the smaller Southdown still offers good eating with smaller cuts of beautifully flavoured meat suited to home butchering.
After buying some crossbred Southdown Merino ewe lambs in 2015 and a smaller purebred Southdown ram in 2016, Jennie and Chris have gradually learned more about breeding sheep and upgraded the flock as opportunities came along so that it is now entirely purebred Southdowns. Building on improvements made to Southdowns in recent decades by other breeders, Jennie and Chris have successfully bred to reduce the height of the sheep in their flock while retaining good structure, fertility and lambing ease. They appreciate the help and encouragement provided by other Southdown breeders in this process and their sharing of their expertise.
Roogulli Farm dual registers their sheep as Southdowns with Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association to record their purebred Southdown genetics and separately as Babydolls with another breed organisation to record their identity as Babydolls while maintaining access to the wide breadth of Southdown genetics available in Australia.