For the past four years, renowned Merino stud Haddon Rig has been developing a Poll Merino arm in response to interest throughout the industry. Pamela Lawson talks to owners George and Sally Falkiner about moving with the times while meeting traditional demands.
Haddon Rig Merino Stud runs 5000 stud ewes and an additional 2000 commercial ewes near Warren, in the NSW Central West. Depending on the season, a further 6000 commercial sheep are run annually, together with a 400-head Angus breeding herd and a significant opportunity cash-cropping enterprise. The stud produces about 900 Horned rams and 150 Polls for sale each year, selling them in a spring on-property sale.
BRED TO ORDER
According to George Falkiner, decades of experience and knowledge in producing Horned Merinos has now been directed into developing the type of Poll Merino rams the market is looking for.
“Producers are attracted to the fertility and fast-maturing properties of Polls, but also want easy-care and fly-resistant animals to counteract international concerns over mulesing,” George said.
“So we are aiming to breed big, early maturing pure Poll rams with plain frames, correct conformation and good heads, with no sweaty Polls or scurs.
“Our Poll rams must also be heavy cutting, with the ability to grow a very high-quality, soft, bright wool.“But the market is still looking to make more dollars per hectare. So like our Merino rams, the Poll rams must be good converters, growing quickly into strong, healthy animals that reach 45-50kg at 8-9 months of age.
“In turn, these rams will produce more lambs with quicker growth rates, suitable for feedlots or fat lamb sales.
“We have analysed the best Poll Merino genetics available in Australia to meet these aims, and utilised artificial breeding technology to selectively produce the type of ram the market place is looking for.
“The Poll stud has been significantly boosted with the purchase of pure Poll Moorundie Park ewes. These reliable, big, soft, plain-bodied ewes were then infused with Poll Boonoke bloodlines, which have extraordinary skin and wool type.
“There is still a strong demand for Horned Merinos among our established client base, many of whom have sourced their genetics from Haddon Rig for more than 80 years.
“We therefore aim to remain ahead of market demand in our breeding philosophy for both our Horned and Polled studs.
“We utilise a huge range of available tools, technologies and experts to assess our stock for future stud use. “We employ a renowned stud classer, Andy McLeod and have the expertise of stud master Forbes Murdoch, who both work in conjunction with Haddon Rig manager Andy Maclean.
“Sires selected for future stud use have loose, productive skins and wool with lock to maintain wool cut, character and crimp.
“Also important is selecting the right combination of staple length and wool density, to stop the fleece from opening up and letting in dust and weather.
“Rotational grazing, feed supplements and pasture and water management are key areas helping lift productivity within the Haddon Rig stud.”