Polwarth breed celebrates its long history

Polwarth breed celebrates its long history


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IMPRESSIVE FLEECE: Polwarth Sheep Breeders Association of Australia secretary and Fairview Polwarths stud principal Kaye Potter, with husband and co-principal Greg, and some of their Polwarth fleece. Photo by Glen Watson.

IMPRESSIVE FLEECE: Polwarth Sheep Breeders Association of Australia secretary and Fairview Polwarths stud principal Kaye Potter, with husband and co-principal Greg, and some of their Polwarth fleece. Photo by Glen Watson.

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This year marks 100 years since the Polwarth Sheep Breeders Association of Australia was officially formed.

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This year marks 100 years since the Polwarth Sheep Breeders Association of Australia was officially formed and the versatile breed continues to sustain interest in a range of climate conditions.

According to association secretary and Fairview Polwarths stud principal Kaye Potter, during this time breeders have focused their efforts on maintaining a consistent type of Australian Polwarth while increasing their overall size.

"They are renowned as a dual-purpose wool and meat sheep, producing a high yielding, white, soft-handling wool in the 20 to 23 micron range," Ms Potter said.

"The Polwarth is an easy to handle, plain-bodied sheep with a robust constitution and will also produce a quality prime lamb when mated to a terminal sire."

The Polwarth is the feature breed at this year's Australian Sheep & Wool Show (ASWS) in Bendigo and about 70 Polwarth entries are expected to come from throughout Victoria, Tasmania and SA.

New Zealand Polwarth breeder Martin Paterson, Matakanui Station, will be judging the line-up.

As part of the celebrations, Ms Potter said the association is hosting an afternoon tea on Saturday, July 20, during the ASWS, and welcomes all founding and current Polwarth breeders to the event.

Promoted as Australia's first sheep breed, the Polwarth was developed by the Dennis family in the 1880s.

The Dennis brothers, Alexander, William and John, emigrated from Cornwall in England to Australia in 1839.

Initially they moved to Tasmania, but their enquiries soon led them back to the western districts of Victoria.

After buying 600 Saxon Merinos, the brothers settled on a property near Colac which they called Tarndwarncoort.

The family also bought several more properties including Carr's Plains, which was managed by Alexander's son-in-law Holford Wettenhall.

They also purchased Eeyeuk Station at Mortlake in 1867, which at that time ran a Lincoln sheep flock.

Together the family started breeding a fixed comeback type of sheep, using the same Merino and Lincoln strains and proportions at each of the three properties.

After 25 years of consistent breeding, the three original flocks became well established and were known as 'Dennis Comebacks'.

"The Dennis family found their Merino flock wasn't ideally suited to the wet, cold conditions of south-west Victoria and they experimented with the fixed cross until a consistent type of sheep was produced," Ms Potter said.

In 1919, the breed was officially named after the County of Polwarth where Tarndwarncoort was located and the Polwarth Sheep Breeders of Australia Association was formed.

"I think the success of the Polwarths was mainly due to the Dennis family being able to maintain close control within their three flocks," she said.

"This enabled them to develop a consistent, true to type animal which is very similar to today's Polwarth."

There are currently 22 registered stud flocks in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW, SA, Queensland and WA, with national Polwarth numbers estimated to be between 20,000-30,000 head.

"The breed has also enjoyed success overseas, particularly in South America, with Polwarth numbers at 700,000 head in Uruguay, 250,000 in Brazil and 100,000 in Argentina," she said.

She said the association was honoured to have three Polwarth breeders from Uruguay attending the ASWS.

The story Polwarth breed celebrates its long history first appeared on Stock & Land.

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