Bunnyconnellen's new owners welcome first decent season

Brandon Long
By Brandon Long
February 16 2022 - 8:00am
FAMILY TIES: Bunnyconnellen's Ninian and Kate Stewart-Moore, Oliver Hinds, and kelpie Rocky take a break from shearing. Photos: Brandon Long

When Ninian and Ann Stewart-Moore left their son to manage their Hughenden property and moved to Crows Nest near Toowoomba in 2016, they were looking forward to green pastures.

Instead, they were met with years of drought.

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Now, after a remarkably wet 2021, the family can finally celebrate at their Merino sheep farm, Bunnyconnellen.

"We've been here nearly six years and it's the first time we've had a proper season," Mr Stewart-Moore said.

The family has a rich Merino woolgrowing history in the north, stretching back to 1906.

When Ninian and Ann sold out in 2014, they brought the last of their flock with them to Bunnyconnellen.

The 100ha property is primarily clover and Kikuyu, and is home to 205 Dohne Merinos - 90 ewes, 72 weaners, 42 wethers and one ram.

While Ninian and Ann own the farm, it is run by their daughter Kate and her partner Oliver Hinds and a succession plan is in motion.

WOOLLY WORK: Ninian Stewart-Moore keeps an eye on kelpie Rocky.

Mr Hinds said with the fantastic season, they joined earlier than usual.

"Normally, we would have waited an extra couple of months before we joined our ram to our ewes, but because there is so much feed on the ground, we've weaned as per normal, but then we've joined earlier in mid-November and we're trying to utilise the best of the season. We're expecting in March."

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Kate and Oliver plan on keeping a conservative stocking rate as they are big on rotational grazing.

"We're mowing the lawn where it needs to be mowed and coming back to it and we're allowing ourselves to bring lambing forward because we have got plenty of feed. Where we're situated, we're very happy for the next year," Mr Hinds said.

Moving forward, they plan to split up three or four paddocks to build their flock to 300 to 350 sheep.

However, with the abundance of moisture comes problems like parasites and weeds.

"Now we've got to deal with all the blowflies and worms - all the parasites that like to come with the moisture," Mr Hinds said.

"We often try to rest a paddock for anywhere between 21 to 30 days - trying to break down that life cycle of parasites."

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CLASS ACT: A shearer makes his way through 205 Dohne Merinos at Bunnyconnellen. The wool is usually between 20 and 23 micron.

Last week, Bunnyconnellen kicked off its first shearing for the year and the quality was looking good.

While a 205 sheep run is a far cry from the 25,000 sheep and 400-500 bales a year Ninian and Ann used to process, the same level of attention to detail and passion remains.

"Most of the wool here would be between 20 and 23 micron. COVID flattened the wool market right at the beginning but it seems to have bounced back a bit. The last five to six weeks have been nothing but gains for wool," Mr Stewart-Moore said.

The family will load the clip on a truck and deliver it to their wool broker in Brisbane.

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Brandon Long

Brandon Long

Queensland Country Life journalist

Brandon Long is a Queensland Country Life journalist based in Toowoomba.

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