DAWSON Bradford believes a new breed he has developed has great potential for WA's sheep market.
Well known as the chairman of WAMMCO, Dawson has also been successfully running the Hillcroft Farms Poll Dorset stud for close to 35 years.
Recently the decision was made to sell the Poll Dorset stud to concentrate on breeding an easy-care line of sheep, which Dawson has now dubbed the UltraWhite.
Dawson said while it wasn't an easy decision to sell the Poll Dorset stud, he recognised that he needed to simplify his sheep operation, while still breeding quality prime lambs.
"I really wanted to produce prime lambs as efficiently and as cheaply as possible with the minimum amount of labour," he said.
"This was also brought about by serious change in health and increased difficulty in securing suitable labour.
"So basically I started to look at how to breed a low cost, low labour and easy-care sheep to take the place of current Merino and Poll Dorset flocks to produce prime lambs.
"In my estimates, wool and wool-related matters were taking at least 25 per cent of the time involved in sheep enterprises - mustering, shearing, crutching, lice control, fly strike and so on."
Dawson said while the Hillcroft Farms Poll Dorsets contained a lot of the traits he was seeking in the new breed, there was one major fault.
"They produced wool and it had to be removed by shearing each year," he said.
"The search for a breed to cross with the Poll Dorset to achieve the wool shedding quality led me to selecting the White Dorper
"Both breeds had a lot of the same traits that were being sought - the White Dorper had all of the qualities that the Poll Dorset lacked and vice versa."
The first stage of producing what would eventually become the UltraWhite, began in 2005.
Dawson started breeding and selecting the new breed by using different mixes of each breed to find the best combination to suit the requirements.
"We soon found that the Poll Dorset was a very hard breed to remove wool from," he said.
"Other bare-pointed breeds were much easier to breed the wool off.
"And initially I thought that 50 per cent of each breed would give the right outcome but the 2010 drought highlighted that to get the hardiness and doability that I was seeking there needed to be more than two thirds of Dorper in the mix."
One challenge that Dawson found with developing the new breed was structure.
"Structural soundness, particularly in feet and legs, needed a lot of attention," he said.
"But the birthweights of the new breed were ideal and the lambs were very viable and active at birth."
Dawson said he focused on the following key traits that he thought would be requirements for the new composite breed:
p No wool - full shedding of wool each year
p Good performance - growth, muscle and fat to suit a wide range of production areas
p Very fertile - 130 per cent minimum to 170pc desirable long term
p High milk production - must be able to rear twins and triplets
p Year round breeding - similar to Merinos and Poll Dorset
p Ewe lambs able to be mated at six to seven months
p Good maternal instincts to protect and rear lambs.
p Moderate birthweights for easy, maintenance-free lambing
p Hardiness - able to handle and produce under dry and less than favourable conditions
p Good doability - able to respond quickly and perform at a high level in good conditions
p Adaptable to a wide range of conditions found in Australia
p Structurally sound - must have good feet and leg structure suitable for wetter areas
p Free moving and mobile - to suit dryer areas
p Quiet temperament for ease of handling
p Moderate mature adult size - not a big, mature sheep that cost too much to maintain but still must have high early growth to 60kg for lambs
p Produce a self-replacing maternal breed that also performs well as a terminal breed
p Freedom from grass seed problems - hair doesn't hold on to grass seeds like wool and so there is no likelihood of having grass seeds penetrate the skin into the carcase leading to downgrading.
Nine years on and Dawson has been very pleased with where he has taken the new breed.
"The UltraWhite sheds all or the majority of its wool now," he said.
"It has good ASBV performance coming through from the Poll Dorset side, with a target growth of 10 to 12 PWT being achieved by a large part of the stud already.
"There is good carcase conformation suitable for a wide range of slaughter weights and the ewes are highly fertile, with mature ewes averaging between 130-160pc with an ongoing flock average of about 140pc with low supervision.
"Birthweights are moderate and the ewe lambs are highly fertile at seven months of age, with 80pc of ewe lambs mated this year.
"Milking and mothering ability is also outstanding."
Dawson said he had now mostly covered all the requirements that he started out to achieve.
"What we are producing now, is a highly functional breed that is low maintenance and high performing and suitable as a self-replacing maternal breed," he said.
"Also because of its high performance it is a very suitable terminal breed."
Hillcroft Farms has been selling rams for the past three years under the banner of Easy-Care.
"We now consider it necessary to differentiate the breed away from the very generic name initially used," Dawson said.
"The title UltraWhite is the name chosen for the new breed because it fits and describes perfectly the breed that has been developed. That is the ultimate performing white breed for producing prime lambs under a wide range of conditions in Australia.
"Sales have increased each year as more rams are becoming available at the standard that I believe is suitable for breeding prime lambs and meets all of our selection criteria.
"A very high degree of satisfaction has been indicated by all of our clients, with general comments about how fast they grow with exceptional carcase conformation and how good it is not to have to clean up lambs around the breech before they are sent for slaughter because these areas are already bare."