Graceful 'Gostwyck'

17 Mar, 2008 03:31 PM
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"Gostwyck" chapel.

"The Pastoral Review's" 1913 survey of "The Pastoral Homes of Australia" didn't stint its admiration of Gostwyck, the Dangar family estate 40 kilometres south-east of Armidale.

Then the property of Captain Clive Collingwood Dangar, the third generation of the Dangar family to own the run, Gostwyck "is the home of one of the most beautifully-wooled Merino flocks in the Commonwealth", the writer said; and, he added, "is one of the best improved pastoral holdings in the Commonwealth".

By then, Gostwyck was already historic in the youthful reckoning of colonial Australia.

The property was selected by Edward Gostwyck Cory around 1830. He and colleague William Dangar had earlier squatted on land along the Peel River near Tamworth, but found themselves ousted by aggressive land exchanges pursued by the fledgling Australian Agricultural Company.

Prospecting for new land, the pair climbed onto the New England tableland and pegged out sheep stations - Terrible Vale, Salisbury Plains, Palmerston - whose names continue.

Cory quickly sold Gostwyck, named after his grandfather, to William Dangar, who by the late 1840s owned 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) of New England grazing country. Gostwyck wasn't by then part of this empire: in 1834, William sold the property to his brother, Henry, assistant surveyor to explorer John Oxley.

The earliest picture of Gostwyck came from a government survey in 1848: 50,000 acres (20,200 ha) carrying 60 horses, 640 cattle and 20,000 sheep.

By the time "The Pastoral Review" visited in 1912-13, Gostwyck was about half its original size, but now shore more than 30,000 grown sheep.

This "beautifully wooled" flock had by then benefited from nearly 60 years of stud breeding.

Henry Dangar founded the Gostwyck stud in 1854 with the importation of 28 rams from a Herr Gadegast in Saxony. From the late 1870s, the emphasis switched to Australian-bred sires. In 1897, Gostwyck bought a famous ram, Waterloo, by President, from the Hon. Jas. Gibson, for the substantial sum of 580 guineas. Waterloo is credited with providing Gostwyck with some 800 lambs, and for helping the outstanding figures of the 1912 wool clip - 30,212 adult sheep cut an average of eight pounds, 12 ounces (4 kg) of wool, or about 5.28 kilograms of wool per hectare.

Production then appeared to stall through the next 45 years of war, drought and depression, but when it spiked again, the improvement was dramatic.

One unknown writer calculated that before pasture improvement began in 1957, the 18,600 acre (7500 ha) property yielded about 45,000 kilograms of wool (still around 5.28 kg/ha). By the 1970s, the now 6000 ac (2400 ha) property cut 70,000 kg of wool, or 25.5 kg/ha, thanks to superphosphate and the new pasture species that it supported.

The property's area has changed several times in its history. It arrived at its current size, 2600 ha, in 1969, when sisters Nancy Noreen and Phoebe Patricia (Patsy) Dangar dissolved their partnership in Gostwyck. Noreen took the Gostwyck portion, Patsy the holding directly across Salisbury Waters, the creek which flows across the bottom of the garden of Gostwyck's sprawling 1920s homestead.

Phoebe called the new property "Deeargee", after Gostwyck's historic wool brand, D.R. over G.

Now in its 175th year, Gostwyck is again at the cutting edge of the wool industry.

Noreen's daughter Alison Wright, the fifth generation of her family to retain an interest in the property, and her husband Philip Attard are keen to continue to develop Gostwyck and increase productivity and quality of wool and stock.

Following over 30 years international business in computing, Mr Attard's enthusiasm for the wool industry and his business expertise have earned him seats on the boards of the Australian Wool Services (now Graziers' Investment Company), and this year, the chairmanship of the Sheep Genetics Advisory Committee.

He has faith that in a world under climate change, wool will swing back into favour as a natural product. He's less certain that wool prices will stay high. This has shaped his approach to the Gostwyck wool enterprise.

"Woolgrowers tend to ask themselves at what price can they afford to grow wool. I've turned it around: what if we don't get as much as we deserve for wool? How do we get a return on investment that makes sense?"

His response is to become more efficient at producing the 16.5 micron wool he's aiming for across the Gostwyck flock.

As a result, the property's grazing capability is currently undergoing the sort of revolution that super delivered in the 1950s.

"We're no longer wool producers," Mr Attard says. "We're grass producers."

As well as more conventional use of time-controlled grazing, Mr Attard is working with the Technograze grazing system, a rigorous form of cell grazing that provides maximum utilisation of pastures and maximum grazing management flexibility.

The methods have already delivered striking improvements to pasture quality. Progress to date has encouraged Mr Attard to aim for a 50 percent Increase of productivity of each hectare.

And that's only one focus: all other areas of production are also under scrutiny.

"It's no different to any business," Mr Attard says.

"You work to bring the capabilities of all areas - in this case pasture, nutrition, genetics, lambing, stock weight gain rates - to the highest level, and then look for ways to do it better still."

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Rob. As Bill says, what you do with your time and resources is YOUR choice and no one else's to
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