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Ben and Sue Nicholls and family, "Burdenda", Tottenham
Ben and Sue Nicholls and their family run Merinos from Gundagai in the NSW South West Slopes to the wide open plains at Nyngan in the State’s far west, so they need a versatile Merino to suit varying environments.
For more than 20 years, the family has turned to the Falkiner family’s Haddon Rig Merino Stud and classer, Andy McLeod, to source this genetic versatility, together with high fleece yields, and early growth in lambs.
“With the bright white, well-nourished wools that these sheep produce, we are able to keep the dust out on our western properties but at the same time have high yields of up to 74% at our Gundagai property,” said Sue Nicholls.
“The microns average from 20.5 at our Tottenham property to 19.5 at Gundagai.
“We have considered the larger-framed Merinos but have decided that the medium-framed Haddon Rig Merino is a better performer for our operation as their productivity per hectare is greater throughout all seasons.
“With Haddon Rig’s mix of both objective and visual assessment in their stud, we have the utmost confidence in the way they are evolving.”
Ben and Sue Nicholls’ family business has been based at “Burdenda”, Tottenham, Central West NSW, for the past 24 years.
Of their four sons, three are involved in the management of the family properties – Aaron, 29, at “Ferny Hill” (1800ha), Gundagai, Dan, 24, at “Burdenda” (14,100 ha), Tottenham, and Cameron, 21, at their recently-purchased “Illabunda” (10,500ha), Nyngan.
Their second eldest son, Jabe, lives and works in Sydney but at the same time has a keen interest in the family business.
Over these three properties, the family runs 20,000 Haddon Rig-blood Merino ewes, 500 Hereford cows, and grow 2,000ha of mixed cropping.
“We run 15,000 ewes as our base self-replacing Merino flock, with the wethers being fattened and sold as slaughter lambs,” Mrs Nicholls said.
“These wether lambs are Spring-drop, shorn at 10 months, fattened on Lucerne, and sold off as they reach 50kg live weight.
“When the ewe hoggets are classed, the cull portion goes to “Ferny Hill” at Gundagai to maintain our breeding flock there.
“These ewes are joined to specially-selected Poll Dorset rams to produce prime lambs for the supermarket trade.
“Most are sold locally through the locally owned and operated Gundagai abattoir, which supplies Coles supermarket orders.
“Our lambs easily meet specifications for this trade.”

Pictured, above right, are Dan and Ben Nicholls, and their old faithfulls, at "Burdenda", Tottenham.
Dougal and Susan McLeish, "Thurn", Coonamble

"George has actually run with the times with his wool. His wool now is bright, white, and all that the market wants. And what's more, the comfort factor in virtually every one of their sale rams is 99+%, which is something you don't always get in other ram sales. To us, breeding wool for comfort factor is one of the most important things that we do. We're very happy with the way that the whole stud has progressed, and the uniformity among their ram sale teams really shows the quality of what they're doing."

Dougal and Susan McLeish as pictured, right, at the 2012 HR ram sale.

Harold Rossiter, "Youngara", Ungarie

"Merinos are a major enterprise for us and are complementary to our cropping. Even when the wool market was down, you could still make good money from Merinos, and surplus stock sales have been a major focus and income source for us.

My father was a Haddon Rig client back in the 1960s and what I like about the stud is they've got a depth of sheep and a depth of rams there to choose from, which is very important. There are so many niche studs around these days that only have a small number of rams for sale and you just wonder what you’re getting in the long term, so the stud’s history is tremendous. We look for a soft-feeling 'bread and butter'-type 21-22 micron wool. Last shearing (March, 2012), our grown sheep averaged 8.34kg of 21-micron wool with an average yield of 65.99%. 

We’ve always had a fairly good lambing percentage (115%, 2012) and we wanted to put more wool on our sheep and increase their frame size at the same time because we were looking for the sale-ability of our surplus stock, where size matters. Surplus sales are a big income for us each year, with first cross lamb producers looking for the frame in our ewes.

We find that Merinos complement our farming, in what is mixed farming country. Stock are more reliable than crop – it’s very easy to get carried away with inputs in cropping."

Harold and Rosemary Rossiter, together with their son, Tim, and his fiancee, Renee, farm 2400 hectares at Ungarie, west of West Wyalong. They are mixed farmers but the family has been in Merinos since Harold’s late father, Frank, took up their holding in 1949. They love the reliability of Merinos, prompting their current focus on boosting their ewe base to from 1200 to 2000. Pictured, above, are Tim and Harold. 

John Wheaton, Boorooma Merino Stud, Walgett

It's always a pleasure to come to the Haddon Rig ram sale and I think in 2012, I saw one of the most well-grown line-ups that I'd seen for a long, long time. Certainly, I think we're very lucky that when people have been turning away from Merinos, someone as prominent in the industry as Haddon Rig have decided to stick with it to such a large degree. 

Anyone who came to the 2012 ram sale looking for flock rams or special rams would have found them very easy to find in the line-up. We were really pleased because we were looking for something a little special for our single joinings. Over the past five years, we've bought some 18 rams from Haddon Rig and we've joined them in single joinings. The results have been very, very pleasing. Each year we come we're getting a little more particular, as we look for something very special, and we've never been disappointed - we've always been able to find something that we perceive will take us a step further in what we're going to do."

John is pictured, above, at our 2012 HR ram sale. 

Richard Green, “Olieview”, Parkes

"When you buy rams at Haddon Rig, what you see is what you get because of the depth of breeding at the stud. They breed on. That predictability gives you an article that you know will perform under the conditions that you operate. The name Haddon Rig is synonymous Australia-wide for depth of breeding, quality and trueness to type.

They're a very even-fleeced, heavy cutting sheep. We get very few cast lines in a well-classed clip. We find that we get really good main lines in a well-managed flock - it's just a pleasure to put the wool through the press. We get good crimp definition, good length, the sheep yield well, they comb well - we find the shearers comment on that. We find the sheep are very fertile and we lamb well over 100%. 

I personally follow the wool through the system to the point of sale, and the wool always sells well. We get tops prices on any market and I've found that in the past 20 years, that's a very important component of your business. Wool that doesn't stack up at the point of sale costs you dearly. 

They're big-framed sheep, our mutton always sells well, and we find as an extra bonus that our young surplus ewes are in demand - we can sell surplus young ewes very well to repeat buyers. We can dominate a market very well at an auction sale and that's very pleasing from a growers' point of view."

Richard and Anna Green, and family, regularly feature as winners and placegetters of the Parkes Ewe Competition. The family runs 2240 hectares of red loam country. Their enterprise breakup is 40% Merino sheep, 40% Angus cattle, and the remainder is cereal cropping. Richard is pictured, far right, with his sons, David and George. 

Click here to watch Richard's video...