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AUSTRALIAN REPORT FOR WORLD CORRIEDALE CONGRESS DELIVERED BY ANDREW NICOLSON, FEDERAL PRESIDENT OF THE AUSTRALIAN CORRIEDALE ASSOCIATION AT LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND,
ON 29TH MARCH 2007
I would like to take this opportunity to express my own and my fellow Australian's thanks to the President and members of New Zealand's Corriedale Sheep Society for the truly superb hospitality we are enjoying. I must congratulate the World Corriedale Congress Organising Committee for the enjoyable and interesting pre-congress tour we have just completed. I also extend our sincere thanks to Jim & Brenda Venters and to Di Rawlinson, Helen Shrewsbury, Arthur Blakeley and Ricardo Shaw for the manner in which they have ensured the success of the Australian and New Zealand pre-congress tours.
I anticipate that this, the 13th World Congress, will be the most meaningful and have the most far reaching consequences of any since the first, actually entitled the World Corriedale Type Conference, was held on this site in November 1950.
As many of you are already aware, much of pastoral Australia is, & has been, suffering severe drought conditions, in many areas for several years. The pictures showing stud ewes at Streanshalh, Tasmania, early this month give a good indication of the prevailing conditions and the manner in which breeders and their sheep are coping with the situation. During the past year I have visited every region of Australia where Corriedales are bred. Without exception I have always been delighted and favourably impressed by the excellent condition of the sheep I have seen, both in the paddock and housed for show. The care and attention that Australian breeders have always given to constitution and suitability for the environment is being well rewarded.
My Association is currently experiencing a rapid increase in the number of registered breeders. In addition to the landowners who are beginning, or in two cases resuming, stud breeding, schools and agricultural colleges are applying for registration on a frequent and regular basis. These institutions are receiving every encouragement from Federal Council, State branch committees and individual breeders. With a view to the future, several very promising students have been donated sheep to begin studs of their own, which often involves travelling several hundred kilometres to make delivery. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those breeders who make semen available from their top sires, with extremely beneficial results. The Victorian state committee is providing special classes for colleges and novice breeders at major shows and also guidance in standards of show preparation. Nearly all of these studs are necessarily restricted to a small number of breeding ewes and rely on sires or semen provided by other interested stud masters. Denmark Agricultural College, near Albany, about 400 kilometres south of Perth in Western Australia is, however, much larger with a breeding flock of 100 ewes. Under the guidance of Tom Bradshaw it was founded with sheep from a long established flock of carefully bred commercial Corriedales, this now being Federal Council policy. The excellent quality of the Denmark College sheep I have seen in recent months is evidence of the wisdom and success of this policy and also of the dedication and skill of Tom Bradshaw. The pictures taken during judging at Perth Royal Show give a good indication of the type of Corriedale being bred in Western Australia by Corralyn, as well as Denmark Agricultural College. The number of breeding ewes and overall quality of their flock places the college in the fortunate position of being able to use sires of their own breeding should they choose to do so.
The longest established of these studs are Smithfield Plains High School in South Australia, managed by Alex Suljagic, and St. Gregory's College, just south of Sydney, managed by David Baker. I have seen a good deal of the St Gregory's sheep as they exhibit at shows I attend and I am greatly impressed by the quality of both the students and their show teams. The St. Gregory's photographs taken at Dubbo, NSW, Canberra and Bendigo sheep shows give an excellent illustration of both the students and their sheep. I take this opportunity to pay a very sincere tribute to the masters (and in one instance mistress) in charge of these colleges. In addition to Tom Bradshaw and David Baker, Andrew Cosby of Elisabeth Murdoch College, Brian Adams of Lithgow High School and Joanne Hellard of Woodleigh School are travelling considerable distances with their pupils and sheep. These journeys frequently involve staying away for several days – a considerable undertaking.
Junior judging and junior ambassador competitions are now a very important feature at major shows, the Australian Sheep & Wool Show at Bendigo, being the one I am most familiar with. The continuing success of these competitions is due in large measure to the enthusiasm, dedication and guidance of Bruce and Julie Hamblin and Peter Baker. More than seventy young people now compete each year for these awards which are proving a valuable training ground for judging at both provincial and major shows. Matt Brown, a successful contestant from St Gregory's in 2005, has acted most satisfactorily as associate judge at Dubbo, where Corriedales were feature breed and is now joint owner of a small Corriedale stud. One of the newer studs, Woodleigh School for Girls, has competed at several country shows, including Geelong, and also competed in the junior judging competition at Bendigo with considerable success.
On a broader spectrum, sheep are, and will continue to be, vitally important to the Australian economy despite a decline in number from 180 million in 1990 to 103 million at the latest (2005-06) census. Changing market conditions have however resulted in a dramatic alteration in the actual composition of the flock. In many regions prime lambs are now more profitable to breed than fine wool which is causing an ever increasing demand for prime lamb mothers. The benefits to be derived from a self-replacing flock that cuts a bulky fleece and does not require mulesing are becoming increasingly apparent, particularly in view of ever increasing government regulations. Due to pressure applied by animal rights groups, mulesing as we know it is to be phased out by 2010. My own experience of the various alternative methods of mulesing currently being trialled agrees with the generally held opinion that clips are not a practical alternative. They certainly appear less distressing to either lamb or an observer than conventional mulesing. However they are very much more time consuming to apply and there is also the problem of the clips not being biodegradable. I was much more impressed with Trisolfen which, although expensive, appears to have excellent anaesthetic and healing qualities. In view of this, I am firmly convinced of the desirability of breeding a sheep such as the Corriedale which cuts a bulky, payable fleece yet does not require mulesing.
Seasonal conditions and market fluctuations have compelled many farmers in Australia to diversify their operations. We as Corriedale breeders are in the fortunate position of having a dual purpose sheep ideally suited to cope with both climatic and market variations. In Victoria's Corriedale heartland, the Foster family combine maintaining a high profile show team with the lot feeding of Corriedale and Corriedale cross lambs. These lambs are fed approximately one kg of grain based pellets daily for forty days at a cost of $35 to $40 per head. Haven Park lot fed lambs, 27.9kg carcase weight, sold for $3.40 per kg, which with an added skin value of $14 gave a return of $108.86 per head. This is one example of the manner in which breeders are coping with the current seasonal conditions and financial situation.
It is vitally important that every one of us continue to maintain and improve the unrivalled dual purpose qualities and constitution for which the Corriedale is renowned. As we are all aware, markets are volatile with the relative profitability of wool and meat always liable to sudden change. By constitution, I mean the ability to thrive under all conditions whether favourable or not – a characteristic for which the Australian Corriedale has always been renowned.
One of the most noteworthy and pleasing developments within the Australian Corriedale Association is the increasingly active role women are taking in stud breeding, breed promotion and administration. This, together with the dedication and ability of our Secretary, Peter Weston, and the positive approach and enthusiasm of our members give me great confidence in the future prospects and continued wellbeing of the Australian Corriedale.