Coonamble Dohne breeders, Jamie and Tessa Searle, were surprised when Sally Cooper, one of the founders of an Australian indigenous start-up clothing and giftware company, rang to say she was using some of their wool.
She had tracked them down through one of the fledgling company’s suppliers who were using their wool to make blankets.
Téa&Belle has been going for little more than 12 months but Ms Cooper said orders were flooding in for its growing range of high-quality clothing, gift products and children’s books.
Sydney-based Ms Cooper, who grew up on wool property near Boorowa with Wally Merriman one of her neighbours and long-time friends, said one of Téa&Belle’s corporate clients was global building and infrastructure giant, Lendlease, which was sourcing gift packs for the buyers of its new dwellings.
The latest batch of gift packs have included woollen blankets made from the Searles’ wool.
Ms Cooper said Téa&Belle wanted to tell the stories of its suppliers like the Searles as well as share positive messages about Indigenous people and culture.
Mr Searle said it was pleasing to get feedback about their wool and welcomed the chance to share his family’s story with consumers.
The Searles had been running 2500 Dohnes on their 2400ha mixed farm, “Tomberua”, 37km north east of Coonamble, before drought forced them to clip back numbers to around 1000 ewes and 500 replacements.
Continuation of the drought would put more pressure on numbers although Mr Searle said their Dohnes had been coping well with the help of wheat and faba beans.
“It’s the driest it’s ever been here and I have been on this place for 35 years.
“Dohnes handle these conditions really well. They are good foragers and doers. They run on semi-arid land in South Africa,” he said.
Mr Searle said his focus after the drought would be on rebuilding ewe numbers which would mean he would have to ease back on culling.
He originally had a Haddon Rig-blood flock but switched to Dohnes when his friend, the late Bill Pye, Calga stud, Coonamble, started breeding them.
They are still buying Calga rams with the stud now managed by Mr Pye’s wife, Margie.
The Searles went into Dohnes in 2003 with the trend at the time towards finer wool and a meatier Merino lamb.
“Then Dohnes came along and we had an animal that could do it (both) and without too much trouble.
“Dohnes had a far better conversion rate, you can still cut your 17-micron wool off them, and they convert into a lamb at 10 months to go over the hooks in a normal season.”