Woodpark Polls in demand

Woodpark Poll Merinos in demand

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Client outcomes are the best indicator of stud performance for Poll Merino stud breeders Stephen and Carol Huggins.

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Business Profile

Stephen Huggins, principal of Woodpark Poll Merino stud, south-east of Hay, NSW, standing in the yards with some of the stud's young rams.

Stephen Huggins, principal of Woodpark Poll Merino stud, south-east of Hay, NSW, standing in the yards with some of the stud's young rams.

Client outcomes are the best indicator of stud performance for Poll Merino stud breeders Stephen and Carol Huggins, Woodpark Poll Merino stud, Hay, NSW.

The Huggins have been breeding well-balanced sheep with depth of body, squareness, and easy doing ability on a functional and fertile frame to meet market demand since they took over their family's Poll stud 15 years ago.

The stud was established in the 1980s.

Mrs Huggins said they were working to ensure their sheep could ride out market variables.

"You need to have something that is a viable business proposition regardless of ups and downs," Mrs Huggins said.

The family use data collection, internal and external benchmarking (ASBVs), DNA testing and client flock performance to quantify the results, Mr Huggins said.

One of the stud's clients, the Mulquiny family in Wooroonook, Victoria, had a Woodpark Poll blood flock win the most profitable team in Australia's largest wether trials, the most recent Peter Westblade Memorial wether trial.

Mr Huggins said the traits the Woodpark sheep had developed resulted in 18 micron sheep, with young ewes pre-lambing producing 8.2 kilograms of wool in recent fleece weighing.

"Our breeding ewes that have lambed and been through the ups and downs of the season average 7.5kg to 8kg comfortably," Mr Huggins said.

"We used the frequent poor seasons to identify sheep that perform under these conditions - they lamb and maintain lambs, cut wool and continue good fleece weights.

"The use of eye muscle and fat data enhances these results."

Surplus ewes were sold through the Jerilderie October store sale, young wethers and old ewes were mostly sold to repeat clients.

The bloodline has also regularly been at the top of premium spring sales in Hay, Jerilderie, West Wyalong, Swan Hill and Wycheproof.

Outside genetics are rarely brought into the Woodpark Poll flock with the Huggins' focusing instead on the joining process, ensuring ewes are matched to rams for certain breeding outcomes and breeding with a type in mind.

"The ram you see in front of you breeds the same way, and we've put a lot of effort into making sure it's a top end performing ram," Mr Huggins said.

"Having a large genetic base of proven quality allows us to make genetic gain without having to go to the industry.

"We have the traits we need within our own sheep, and we can enhance within our own breeding."

The operation only used outside genetics when seeking a specific trait or for linkage.

"When you do that, it means the genetics are stable and predictable."

Mrs Huggins said breeding was a responsibility they took seriously.

"You are impacting on other people's operations, so you can't take that lightly," she said.

"You need to be sure when you are placing a number of rams that every single one of those rams is a ram you'd be happy to use yourself."

The sheep were bred to perform in varying climates, with rams going into high rainfall areas including Boorowa, NSW; Hamilton, Victoria, Wilcannia, NSW, and Longreach, Queensland.

"With the seasons so up and down you need sheep to perform in all conditions and be able to recover quickly and get back in lamb when the opportunity presents," Mr Huggins said.

The stud mostly used natural matings, with single sire matings in containment pens, rather than artificial insemination, although AI had been used in the past for outside sires and progeny testing.

Some of the Woodpark Poll flock.

Some of the Woodpark Poll flock.

The main lambing occurred in May, but there was also a spring drop.

The family run about 9000 Merino ewes and 3000 stud ewes, across two properties - 40,000 acres at Hay in the western Riverina of NSW, and 5100 in Balmoral in the southern Grampians, Victoria.

They sell 140-150 of their top rams annually at their ram auction held at Jerilderie racecourse, which will be held on September 21 this year.

About 700 grade rams are also offered.

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