A big focus on little creatures for PetTeet Park between Beverley and York

By Brooke Littlewood
April 5 2022 - 12:26am
PetTeet Park is located between Beverley and York, not too far for people from the city to travel to.

MORE than a decade ago, Kevin and Pam Johnson's retirement plan was simple:

Escape to the country, buy a property and run a small herd of animals - including lambs - for the grandchildren.

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A shift in gear presented the perfect opportunity to kick back and enjoy life at a more relaxed pace, after many years working as publicans in the motel/hotel scene.

The Johnsons found a patch of paradise between Beverley and York, on the fringe of the Wheatbelt and 100km from the grandchildren in Perth.

The property was appealing for its location, size and access to water.

Meanwhile, the proposed 'small' herd of animals technically - and quite literally - stayed true to size.

"We thought, if we are going to breed, why not run sheep and animals that are small all of the time?" Mr Johnson said.

PetTeet Park owners Pam and Kevin Johnson breed miniature animals, proving good things come in small parcels.

"As opposed to having sheep, which are only small when they are lambs."

PetTeet Park was founded in 2008 with a procurement of Babydoll Southdown sheep from one of Australia's oldest flocks, Hillgrove, registered in Victoria in 1921.

The park's name is a play on words and it could probably be guessed what sized animals the couple breeds.

There is an eclectic mix of miniature and exotic livestock including Babydoll Southdown sheep and Australian miniature Hereford cattle, belted Galloway cattle, chickens, goats and pigs, as well as Maremma livestock guardian dogs, horses and alpacas.

"We call ourselves PetTeet Park, as in small pets," Mr Johnson said.

"We try to do the lot - everything in miniature.

"Pam's father had worked for a well-known Southdown stud for many years, so that's where we started.

"Then we looked into miniature cattle and it all snowballed from there."

Babydoll Southdowns are twice as long as they are tall, making them perfect for orchards, vineyards and small-animal properties.

The Johnsons ventured to America and met the late Robert Mock - the man who coined the name Babydoll Southdown to differentiate between the original Southdown.

Babydoll Southdowns are twice as long as they are tall, making them perfect for orchards, vineyards and small-animal properties.

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Their intention was to inject new genetics into Australia, however this proved difficult.

"Americans transport their animals all over the country and there are no regulations," Ms Johnson said.

"So there are quite a few nasty diseases, which Australia doesn't want.

"Basically, we had to find a breeder that had been scrapie (a fatal brain disease) free for five years.

"But to prove they were scrapie free, a sample had to be taken from a safely euthanised animal's brain, which most breeders did not want to do.

"Needless to say, we couldn't bring the genetics in from America."

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Instead, they purchased 30 modern Southdowns from a stud in Narrogin.

The Johnsons thought, if they were going to breed why not run animals that are small all the time.

The problem was most of them were from the Hillgrove bloodline, which was where the Johnsons' foundation stock originated.

"We ended up with the largest genetic pool in Australia when we first started," Mr Johnson said.

"We had five different lines."

While also in America, the Johnsons met with a professor in Washington State to discuss breeding of miniature cattle.

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For a few years now, they have been crossing miniature Hereford bulls with miniature belted Galloway cows to create a panda-like appearance of their offspring which they've dubbed "PetTeet Park pandas".

"By putting the Hereford over them we end up with a white headed, black or red, white-belted calf," Ms Johnson said.

"This has been the focus of our breeding and while they technically aren't purebred, they are a line we are going to try to concentrate on."

For an animal to be deemed a miniature, it needs to measure below 60 centimetres to the shoulder for sheep, pigs and goats and below 110 centimetres for cattle.

For an animal to be deemed a miniature, it needs to measure below 60 centimetres to the shoulder for sheep, pigs and goats and below 110 centimetres for cattle.

Miniature accreditation is about height, as opposed to weight.

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After opening PetTeet Park, the Johnsons decided to venture down the tourism path, encouraged by the Shire of York.

Each year, they open up to the public for up to six weeks.

This gives tourists an opportunity to take photographs in the purpose-planted canola crop and to also meet the animals.

The couple said it had served a purpose in educating visitors about canola oil production, animals and farm biosecurity, while also attracting city folk to the country for that "Insta-worthy, safe selfie" that so many chase.

It's a relatively short drive from Perth to PetPeet Park.

Ms Johnson said visitors could walk through the canola crops when they were flowering, take photographs and meet the animals.

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"Before coming here, many people actually think the flower is the oil, so we decided to put up a big screen detailing what happens during the growth and key facts about canola production in Australia," she said.

"We have a lot of international visitors and really try our hardest to educate."

The Johnsons ventured to America and met the late Robert Mock the man who coined the name Babydoll Southdown to differentiate between the original Southdown.

During the "canola season" they also sell honey produced from their own hives, organic free-range eggs from their chickens and home-made soaps and candles.

As for future plans, they are looking to open their property up for concerts and onfarm glamping in the cooler months.

They have a permit for up to 20 glamping tents.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the term glamping, it is short for glamorous camping.

Each tent will be decked out with beds catering for singles, couples and families, plus have its own ensuite.

Kevin Johnson (pictured) and Pam decided to escape to the country after spending many years in the motel/hotel scene.

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