Southdown Sheep Society, NZ

"The sheep with an illustrious past and a very bright future"

2011 Australian Southdown Tour

Posted by Christina On March - 13 - 2012


Monday 2nd May saw 22 NZ Southdown breeders arrive at the Mantra Tullamarine Hotel, near the Melbourne Airport for our evening get-together. Graeme Hooper (Southdown Australia President) and Lauren joined us for dinner and welcomed our group to Australia. PGG Wrightson caps with special ‘Australian Southdown Tour 2011’ embroidery were handed out to tour members and were also given out to the Australian breeders we visited. Thank you to PGG Wrightson for their sponsorship.

On Tuesday morning we left Melbourne in our two mini-vans, driven by Graham and myself, with the help of GPS and our navigators we headed to Bunding to Ian & Ollie Ireland’s ROMALE stud. Their daughter Roslyn is also very keen on the Southdowns. They put together a very professional display both of sheep and news & show articles and photographs. Their sheep display included their 2010 ewe lamb drop which were penned up in sire groups, some of which were NZ AI sires. This was very interesting and gave us a good look at different breeding lines.

Later that morning we headed around the road to Graeme Dehnert’s FERNHILL stud. Graeme, his sister Lyn & their mother Jessie all assist in the Southdown operation. This was a larger stud which included a number of purchases from the ‘Southern Pastures’ dispersal. Nancy Baker of ‘Southern Pastures’ and her daughter had travelled to be with us for the visit. The Dehnert’s provided a big display of ewes, ewe lambs and ram lambs. As a point of interest we selected 3 top ewes out of the mob and had a judging demonstration. This provided a lot of discussion and different opinions. The Dehnert’s provided us with a fantastic BBQ lunch and dessert. We thank them for their tremendous hospitality. Whilst enjoying lunch we had a lot of Southdown history, photographs and books to absorb. The family had arranged a number of boards and books around the woolshed for us to look at. We all very much appreciated the effort they had made.

Next stop was at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat where we stayed onsite at the lodge at the gold mining town theme park. The group had a couple of hours to entertain themselves around the colonial buildings, gold museum and ‘live’ the atmosphere of a bygone era.

That evening, at Sovereign Hill we attended the ‘Blood on the Cross’ sound and light show which included a pre-show dinner. The Ireland and Dehnert families joined us for the very entertaining evening.

Wednesday morning we headed to Tylden to Andrew Sellars-Jones CHANDPARA stud. Andrew had also gone to a large effort to display all of his Southdowns. His ewes that were sired by NZ sires were penned separately and also a number of his best ram lambs were displayed in progeny groups with their dams. This provided us with a very comprehensive look at his bloodlines.

Next we headed to Tatura, (via lunch at Heathcote) to visit Rob & Lynne McCartney’s YENTRAC stud. We saw their ewes, the rams used this year and a selection of their ewe and ram lambs. The McCartney’s had recently dispersed their Ayrshire dairy stud for exceptionally good prices. It was very interesting to talk to Rob about their stud operation and farming in that area of Victoria.

We stayed in Benalla on Wednesday night. Our last dinner together was held at the Commercial Hotel. Ian Ireland, Graeme Hooper & Lauren joined us for the evening. It was a good “Aussie Pub” and after a number of refreshments the ‘Court session’ was held. This provided a number of laughs and a few fines for most of the tour group. Thank you to the Sheriff Stuart and his helpers!

Thursday morning we travelled a short distance from Benalla to Graeme Hooper’s CLEAR HILLS stud. Graeme has a large stud of 300 ewes that was established in 1928. Graeme & Lauren presented a big line-up of the sires used that season , the mob of around 100 two-tooth ewes, their large mob of mixed age ewes and a selection of both their ewe and ram lambs. It was also nice to meet Graeme’s brother his wife and son.

The next stop was Rutherglen DPI Research Institute. Nick Linden gave us a comprehensive presentation and demonstration on the lamb feed efficiency trial that he is currently leading. He was a very approachable speaker who was informative and passionate about his research. I am sure we all learnt a few things from this visit. We were also fortunate to receive a complementary BBQ lunch. A big thank you to Nick and DPI for their time and hospitality.

Unfortunately that was the end of the tour visits, so we headed back to Melbourne late that afternoon. Most tour members dispersed to other arrangements that evening. However a few of us stayed back at the Mantra Hotel on Thursday night, some of us engaging in an entertaining tour of the ‘highlights’ of Melbourne City that night!

In conclusion, it was great couple of days that took a bit of planning but it was all very much worth the time and effort. We saw a lot of gum trees, green grass and very good Southdowns. Thank you to Ian Ireland for his help in initiating and organising the tour and also for travelling around all the visits with our group.

The Australian breeders are a tremendous group of people and very passionate about the Southdown breed. They went the ‘extra mile’ to display their sheep and make our tour a special time for all. Our Southdown ‘family’ has certainly extended to include our trans-Tasman friends.

See the Gallery for photographs of the tour.