ONE of Western Australia's best known and most successful Poll Merino studs, Willemenup, Gnowangerup, has been sold.
And the good news for clients is that it is moving just 30 kilometres down the road, passing from one dyed in the wool Merino breeding family to another.
When Willemenup stud principals Dick, Barbara and Collyn Garnett made the decision to consolidate their workload to focus more on the commercial side of their livestock and cropping business and allow for more family time, they called in agents for a round table discussion.
From that evolved a plan proposed by Elders' Nathan King and Richard Poulish to offer the stud as a whole.
"I really wanted the stud to remain as one and to go to someone who would treat it with the same passion and commitment as we have over 65 years," Dick said.
"And if it could stay local then that would be even better.
"We discussed a few names we thought would be interested and then left it to the agents to make it happen.
"We could not be happier with how the process evolved and where the stud has gone to.
The new owners are Barloo stud principals Richard and Cindy House and their children Timm, 24, Holly, 22, and Fraser, 21, who say it was a unique opportunity too good to pass up.
"It is not often you get the chance to access genetics like this that are so similar in type and breeding philosophy to our own and to be able to purchase from a family I have had so much respect for over so many years," Richard said.
"It is really for the next generation more than Cindy and I with all three of our kids very keen on a future in sheep breeding and farming at Barloo.
"We are sheep people and have been for generations.
"It's what we believe we do well and sheep are now a bigger part of our enterprise than cropping.
"We see them as lower risk and higher return," Richard said.
The deal comprises 350 ram lambs, 1050 mixed age ewes from lambs to black tags and 10 stud sires taking the House's breeding flock to 2700 stud ewes in total by the October 1st takeover date.
"We had already started our Barloo Polls line but it is a slow process establishing a Poll stud from scratch," Richard said.
"And from the point of view of clients it is difficult to attract them to Polls when you cannot supply substantial lines of very even types.
"If we were serious about Polls, and we are, we knew we had to get bigger numbers wise and this is a perfect way to do it.
"Being able to buy Willemenup as a going concern puts us 10 years ahead on our Polled breeding program.
"The Willemenup name is well known for being about quality and that's obvious from the number of loyal clients."
And it's not just at home in WA or Australia that Richard has seen the Willemenup name and breeding make its mark.
When he judged in Argentina in February he was impressed at how often the Willemenup name was mentioned and how much Willemenup blood was appearing in the sheep he saw.
For Collyn seeing the stud go just down the road to the House family was as perfect a scenario as he could have hoped for.
"It was important to us that the stud went to someone reputable and to someone who will continue to service our clients well and I believe the House family will take the stud to another level," Collyn said.
"I respect them a great deal and appreciate the quality and consistency of their stock."
At the request of the House family, Collyn will provide some consultancy and also continue to class a number of client's flocks, in between focussing on his own commercial farming business.
For Nathan King and Elders working with the two families "was a very seamless process."
"It is a purchase that clearly makes a lot of sense for the House family and it's a credit to Collyn and Dick that they have worked over a long period of time to produce such a marketable product, so it was an easy pitch to make," Nathan said.
"We spoke to a couple of parties and the Houses jumped at the chance.
"It's a great outcome for Willemenup clients."
The Willemenup Merino stud was registered by Dick and his father Vurden Garnett in 1954, the year Dick left school, followed by the Poll stud in 1968.
In 1996, in consultation with their stud classer and mentor Ken Littlejohn, Dick and Collyn made the decision to go all Polls.
"There weren't many good Polls around at the time so we saw an opportunity and it was the best decision we ever made," Dick said.
"When you have both studs you do not put your best Merino ewes to Poll rams so the Polls tend to be bred from the reject ewes and it showed in the quality of Polls for a long time.
"Scrapping the Merinos gave us the numbers to work with and breeding is a numbers game when you are chasing quality.
"We scoured the country for the best Poll genetics."
A turning point for the stud was the purchase of Moorundie Park A017 'The Crow', the grand champion Poll Merino ram of the 1995 Adelaide Royal Show and sale for $80,000, a sire credited with really putting Willemenup on the map.
Moorundie Park remains one of the most successful bloodlines used over the years, but good results have also come from Collinsville Majestic and sires from Kamora Nettley Park, Mianelup, Poll Boonoke and East Bungaree in a ewe flock that now averages just under 21 micron.
"We have always worked on consistency and predictability and that can be a trap using semen where there is a tendency to try a bit of this and a bit of that and your breeding goes in all directions ending up like licorice allsorts," Dick said.
Apart from Ken Littlejohn, the Garnett's credit ram preparer Roy Mahony as being the significant other in Willemenup's success helping them to be the first to win the Australian Merino Ram title with a Poll Merino at Dubbo in 2001.
That was with The Crow son Willemenup 606 and incredibly they went back to back the following year with another son, Willemenup Sir Winston.
Willemenup remains the only WA stud to have won the prestigious national title and the only stud ever to achieve consecutive titles.
"606 sold to Hyfield stud for $53,000 at Katanning on the Friday and on the Sunday he was on the truck to Dubbo," Dick said.
"With Sir Winston, Ken and I did 9000 kilometres taking him to the Queensland State Sheep Show in Blackall in the May, before taking him to Dubbo in the August."
Sir Winston was retained at stud and more than 1500 doses of his semen have been sold throughout Australia and to South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and USA.
Despite feeling a little sadness to see the stud go, Dick said he was happy with the decision to focus more on the commercial side of their business.
"I really want to thank our clients, some of who have been with us for 50 years, for their loyalty and ongoing support," he said.