Queensland Country Life

Stud breeding strategy aims for balance

Woodpark Poll stud principal Stephen Huggins, Hay, NSW, with a selection of this year's quality sale rams.

This is branded for WoodPark Poll Merinos.

Stephen and Carol Huggins of Woodpark Poll need no more validation that their purpose driven breeding program is performing in the modern sheep and wool markets.

The outstanding results of clients speak for themselves.

Nineteen years of fleece weighing, micron testing and body weighing combined with 18 years of internal and external benchmarking has paid dividends for the 35-year-old stud, with Woodpark Poll sheep constantly cutting 8 to 8.5 kilograms of 18-micron wool on a fertile, productive carcase that achieves in the saleyards.

The stud is headquartered at Hay in southern NSW and runs 5500 stud and commercial ewes on native pasture rangelands country.

Woodpark Poll stud principal Stephen Huggins said the operation's breeding strategy was about balance.

"We always say we are not focusing too heavily in any one direction, instead focusing on a balance of the key attributes," Mr Huggins said.

"We consistently produce a large-framed, high growth sheep with a 18-micron fleece that targets the main profit areas of both the sheepmeat and wool markets.

"This has not only been achieved through years of trait testing and benchmarking, but over four decades of careful selection, judgement and visually assessing the sheep with every management practice."

Mr Huggins said each annual ram drop has a minimum of four generations of the stud's own bloodline, offering predictability and prepotency.

"It breeds lines of sheep, not individuals," he said.

"This gives an evenness to the flock, which in turn puts more sheep into the top group.

"For our clients, this means there is no wastage because what you anticipate what they will breed like is exactly how they breed."

The high yielding carcase Woodpark Poll sheep produce is developed through measuring growth rates, eye muscle and fat, coupled with visual judgement and building depth, width and length of body.

Poll Merino lambs are bred to finish into a 25kg plus lamb carcase and big, framey ewes deliver marketing choice.

This strategy is validated by Australia's largest genetic valuation, the Peter Westblade Memorial Merino Challenge wether trial.

Woodpark Poll was the most profitable bloodline in the trial's 18-year history with Mr Huggins saying it was not individual results which had delivered the outcome, but the consistency of results from different clients through several trials.

"Individual clients have on occasion been the most profitable in individual traits, but the strength we see is the consistency of solid results right through the trial," Mr Huggins said.

The stud reports an 18-micron average wool cutting 7.5-8kg fleece weights, achieving $90 to $100 a head for clients.

This year, 5500 two to seven-year-old stud and commercial ewes averaged 7.8kg of 17.8-micron wool, with a range of within one micron variation across all lines of wool.

That equates to 240 bales of wool with a spread of only one per cent.

It also means they breed a type of sheep that is predictable in all its options.

Mr Huggins said the evenness and consistency in the breeding means the rams from the top 100 to 750 sold are of similar high standard, demonstrated by ASBVs and physical traits.

The sheep that index well, he said, have the visual attributes to match.

"We can have 150 to 200 rams by the same family group that are of a type - 15 might make it into our auction group, but the other 150 or so have the same attributes and genetic capacity," Mr Huggins said.

"That's why clients that go in wether trials perform so well, whether they are using auction rams or grade rams, because the genetic integrity is so high.

"That micron range being so tight is a real feature as it is quite unusual to achieve. It really plays out in client flocks where we can tighten up the micron really quickly."

Rams are bred to perform in all environments, selling from Gippsland to Longreach, Hamilton to Boorowa, Wilcannia to Cooma.

One hundred and fifty rams are up for auction at the annual Woodpark Poll ram sale on Monday September 19, 2022 at the Jerilderie Racecourse, NSW, and via AuctionsPlus.

Another 800, fully-measured grade rams and genomic tested grade rams, including 200 August-drop rams, are also available for private selection.