Kangaroo Island, SA, Polwarth breeders, the McArdle family, have been coming to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show for more than 10 years now and believe the long trip to Bendigo is worth it.
The Parndana-based Taljar stud, is run by David and Lynne McArdle, along with daughter Talisa, her partner Jock Kerr, and son Jared and his partner Cherrie, and currently comprises 700 registered ewes and 250 ewe hoggets, one of the largest Polwarth stud flocks in Australia.
The family have had plenty of success at the ASWS over the years with a highlight being awarded the reserve champion long wool interbreed group in 2015.
They have also won the grand champion Polwarth ewe six times in the past eight years and took home the supreme exhibit award in 2016.
"Representing our breed in the interbreed line-ups is always an honour and the reserve champion award was a big win for us," Mr McArdle said.
"We enjoy going to both the ASWS and the Royal Adelaide Show as it provides great exposure and promotion for our breed and stud."
As Polwarths are the feature breed at this year's ASWS, Mr McArdle is busy preparing a large show team of 18 sheep, while Talisa, who has established her own Polwarth daughter stud, Taljade, is bringing five sheep.
"It is a big trip for us, and I could tell you plenty of stories about the ferry, often it can be up to two days late due to the weather, so we always allow extra travel time," he said.
Mr McArdle has continued his father Vincent's passion for breeding quality Polwarth sheep, establishing the Taljar stud in 1996.
The stud was founded on Mt Crawford and Belantha bloodlines from the Adelaide Hills, while genetics were also sourced from the Ashby family's well-known Mt Alma stud, Inman Valley, SA.
"My father was a soldier settler on Kangaroo Island after World War II and Polwarths were introduced to the island from the original Tarndwarncoort flock by a local stud as they did so well in higher rainfall areas," he said.
"I still firmly believe Polwarths are superior in their mothering ability, wool cut and constitution when compared to Merinos in our wet, cold conditions."
The McArdle family is focused on breeding a robust, dual-purpose sheep, which can rear a fast-growing prime lamb while producing a quality 21-micron fleece with a minimum wool cut of 5 kilograms a head.
"They fit the dual-purpose role very well, we sold all our purebred June 2018-drop Polwarth wether lambs last December and they averaged $168/hd," he said.
"The adult ewes cut an average of 6kg/hd of wool and we got 1650 cent a kilogram for the main fleece line in the Melbourne wool sales in January."
Both the commercial and stud ewe flocks lamb in late May, and are naturally joined using home-bred sires.
Mr McArdle prefers to introduce new genetics to his flock by purchasing elite ewes from other Australian studs.
But Talisa is planning to carry out an artificial insemination program with semen sourced from New Zealand and Mr McArdle is hoping to access new bloodlines through his daughter's stud.
One home-bred ram to have a significant influence on the flock was 'Tiny Tim' who weighed in at a hefty 154kg.
"He was the largest Polwarth ever shown in Australia and has bought a lot of frame into our flock, several of this year's show team will include his grandsons," he said.
"In my lifetime, I have done a lot of work on increasing frame and now it's important to maintain a moderate size.
"At the same time, they need to be an easy-care animal so I like to see an open face.
"Wool quality and cut is also a key attribute, during the past 10 years I have reduced the micron in the flock by about 1.5 to now average 21.9 micron but it is a slow process."
In the commercial flock the wether lambs are sold as suckers in December, targeting an average carcase weight of more than 23kg.
Last year's lambs were sold over the hooks to Thomas Foods International at Lobethal, SA.
"Fast growth rates are a significant part of my breeding aim, I want the lambs dropped in May and gone by December so we can focus our efforts on looking after our core breeding flock in the tough summer months," he said.
About 65 per cent of the ewe lambs are kept as replacements, while the remainder are keenly sought by local buyers.
"I have sufficient ewe numbers now so I can afford to be very selective, I aim to sell the older ewes as 4-year-olds so I am continually introducing fresh genetics to the flock," he said.
Taljar uses Stockscan technology to provide accurate information on a range of performance traits with Victorian technician Geoff Davey making the annual trip across in late February.
All the rams and young ewes are scanned at about nine months of age for weight, eye muscle area and fat depth.
Fleece testing is also carried out during shearing in mid-December.
The McArdle family sell about 50 Polwarth rams each year with clients coming from across SA, including the Yorke Peninsula, Adelaide Hills and locally, as well as interstate interest.
"I really enjoy the breeding side of it," he said.