ONE of Australia’s leading flocks on LambPlan, the Hillcroft Farms Poll Dorset stud, Popanyinning, has two new owners following its recent sale.
The sale, which was negotiated through Landmark, will see just short of 700 stud ewes and ewe lambs split evenly between buyers Collyn Garnett, Curlew Creek stud, Gnowangerup and Tom Bull, Lambpro stud, Holbrook, New South Wales.
Hillcroft Farms stud principal Dawson Bradford said a change of focus in the family’s business towards reducing workload, was the main reason behind the sale of the stud.
“We are hoping we have our last year shearing this year with the Easy-Care shedders and these will be our main focus,” Mr Bradford said.
“We have ramped up the Easy-Care shedders flock over the last couple of years and are running 1000 ewes.
“Running the two major flocks was getting very difficult, so we decided to sell the Poll Dorsets and go with the easy labour input option.”
Mr Bradford and his wife Greta founded the Hillcroft Farms Poll Dorset stud in 1972, after they purchased the best ewes available from around Australia to form the nucleus of their flock.
These ewes were then amalgamated with Mr Bradford’s father’s flock, following his death in 1977, and since that time the Bradfords have used only the best genetics available in an effort to produce high performing offspring.
Mr Bradford said the aim for the stud had been to focus on muscling as the number one selection criteria, followed by growth.
“This selection criteria, is different to most studs which focus on growth firstly,” he said.
The stud was one of the very first adopters of LambPlan, using it in 1990 when it became available.
“I have always had trouble coming to terms with the whole show ring side of things and that is why we adopted LambPlan so quickly,” Mr Bradford said.
“LambPlan gave us an objective way of recording genetic performance.
“While we have kept selecting objectively through the years we have still kept an eye on our structure.”
This selection has paid off for the stud.
It has been at the top of LambPlan since the late 1990s for growth and muscling, and its performance in these areas has continued to improve.
The high performance levels achieved by the stud has seen it sell genetics throughout Australia and internationally to New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, South America, the Falkland Islands and Mauritius.
It has recently been selling upwards of 300 Poll Dorset rams a year both at auction and privately.
These sales included a WA record price for a Poll Dorset ram sold at auction when the stud sold a sire for $20,000 at the 2011 Perth Royal Show ram sale, and a ram lamb with figures of +14.6 for PWWT and an outstanding PEMD of +4.8 for $10,000 to Lambpro last December.
Mr Bradford said it had been nice to achieve the high prices over the years, as it is “recognition from your peers that the product you are producing is what is required and shows a degree of quality”.
While the sale has seen the stud split up, Mr Bradford said he was happy it sold as two significant portions rather than being dispersed, meaning the genetics of the flock would be maintained.
“We would have liked to have seen it sold as a whole but in the end I think the way it has gone is best, as the genetics will still be maintained in two good-sized flocks,” he said.
“The genetic influence of the stud won’t be lost as often occurs in a dispersal sale, which is pleasing.
“Both the Curlew Creek and Lambpro studs have a high portion of our genetics in their flocks, so I think our ewes will blend in well in both and further enhance these flocks.”
Buyers Collyn Garnett and Tom Bull were attracted to Hillcroft Farms because of the stud’s high performing genetics.
Mr Garnett said it was a really exciting opportunity to be able to purchase the superior genetics offered by Hillcroft Farms.
“The flock is an industry leader in terms of growth and muscling and the Bradfords have done a lot work on this, so I am really excited to be a part of it,” Mr Garnett said.
“It was an opportunity not only to introduce high performing genetics into our flock, but also increase our ewe numbers.
“With the profile the Hillcroft Farms flock has it was too good an opportunity to walk passed.”
The Garnett family, who run 400 stud ewes after establishing their stud in 2009, are no strangers to Hillcroft Farms genetics.
The Invermay stud they purchased to establish Curlew Creek was based on Hillcroft Farms bloodlines and they have purchased Hillcroft Farms genetics since.
Lambpro stud principal Tom Bull, who has been using Hillcroft Farms genetics since 2002, said the stud’s sheep had proven to be the highest eye muscled and best eating quality sheep, which was extremely rare given the negative correlation between the two.
“Their marbling is of extreme interest,” he said.
Lambpro sells more than 1400 rams annually of which 560 are terminal and the rest maternal. This year it will lamb down more than 1500 Poll Dorset ewes.
The Bradfords will hold their final Poll Dorset ram sale in 2014, and the aim then will be to offer more than 100 Easy-Care Shedders in their on-property sale from 2015.