WELL-MANAGED wool, prime lamb and first cross ewe production from a Merino base is a proven formula for the Bowden family on Weasel Plains at Cluny in central Tasmania.
The Bowden family’s 2016 clip was announced the Elders 2017 Supreme Southern Clip of the Year Award winner by Elders Melbourne show floor manager Mal Nicholls at Hamilton’s Sheepvention expo this week.
Third generation wool grower Scott Bowden said it was an honour to win the award and it was lovely to see Elders going so well. Elders chief executive officer Mark Allison presented the overall award to the Bowdens and monthly awards to the owners of other top monthly clips.
Mr Bowden said the Weasel Plains clip had previously won monthly awards, but the flock was “getting to a good point, it was a good season and it all came together.” He also attributed the win to consistent management and sheep selection by his manager Peter Hansch and good clip preparation by classer Jodi Bryant.
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Elders Melbourne show floor manager Mal Nicholls said the Bowden’s winning September clip and subsequent Elders Supreme Southern Clip of the Year selected itself.
“It immediately attracted the buyers’ attention visually and then backed it up with exceptional measurements.
“It’s possibly the highest scoring clip to win this award.”
Mr Nichols said the 156 bales of fleece wool from the Weasel Plains clip averaged 18.5 micron, 76.4 percent yield, 0.2pc vegetable matter content and had a tensile strength of 48 Newtons/kilotex.
“To back that up, the preparation of the skirtings and oddments was exceptional, with just 11.4pc of the clip in skirtings.”
The Bowden family runs about 12,000 Roseville Park/Oakhampton blood Merino ewes and wethers on about 3840 hectares on Weasel Plains and other land, at 600 metres above sea level and with an annual rainfall of about 500mm. Manager for 30 years, Peter Hansch, also classes the sheep. A small nucleus flock is run for ram production.
The Weasel Plains ewes cut an average of 6kgs of wool at the annual August shearing. Mr Nicholls said wool classer Jodi Bryant has classed the clip for more than a decade and has done a great job, as had shearing contractor Ray Edwards’ team.
Mr Bowden said Weasel Plains joined about 55pc of its Merino ewe flock to Merino rams, with the remainder mated to terminal sires and sometimes Border Leicester rams. Despite recent higher wool prices potentially adding $300 to bale returns, he didn’t expect this would lead him to change the Merino-terminal mating mix.
“Probably not, because we’ve done the same thing for 30 years and we also fatten and sell our wether lambs for meat.
“We sell them locally usually, but last year some came to Victoria and they’re keen to buy them again.”
The Bowdens have won the JBS Australia Tasmanian Lamb Producer of the Year for the past two years and they also have a beef herd.
“We want to maintain fat lambs on the older and stronger wool ewes, and we breed from the rest.
“We don’t have a lot of culls, because we have to keep all our ewe lambs,” he said.
“We have some irrigation, so it all suits our country.”
Mr Bowden said the family runs some Merino wethers for wool, and the wether lambs can also work as a “safety valve”. Last year a dry autumn prompted the sale of half the wether lambs rather than attempting fattening.
Award relevance is still strong
Mr Nicholls said wool buyers and processors would agree that the relevance of awards is greater than it was when they were first instigated.
“The importance of an evenly bred clip and the quality of the work carried out in the sheds and even the conditions in the sheds themselves is extremely important.
“This is what we set out to recognise with these awards.
“We look for those clips that would instantly command the attention of the buyers and then we check to see that it is backed up by the paperwork.”
Mr Nicholls thanked Elder auctioneer Sam Wan and technical officer Sarah Ryan for their contribution to the awards.
The monthly southern region winners were: July/August – Burrupa Pty Ltd, David and Richard Bibby, classer Cassandra Greenwood; September – Weasel Plains, Richard, Judith, Scott, Kate, Will, Edward and Lucy Bowden; October – L. Gleeson and Sons, Butch, Dennis and Garry Gleeson, classer Dennis Gleeson; November – Pendarra, Kelvin and jackie Pendergast, classer Darren Hayward; December – Sonic Hose, Greg and Lois Hose, classer Joy Hardefeldt; January – EJ Napier, Roger and Dianne Napier, classer Darrel Parham; February – Echo Cottage Pty Ltd, Alan, Jenny and Troy Johnston, classer Scott Zantuck; March – Warooka Pastoral Co pty Ltd, John and Joan Lyons, classer Carmen McNeilly; April – Thursles Partnership, Tim and Carla Brody, classer Emma Vaughan; May – Pendower Pty Ltd, John and Kerry Doyle, classer David Buttler; June – EM & ME Linke, Everard, Marilyn, Matthew and Libby Linke, classer Everard Linke.