Ardene’s Bruce Hodgson said improving carcase shape and structure were behind the purchase of three rams, for nearly $40,000, in the last two years. Those purchases included a $20,000 investment in ram 150140 at Tattykeel’s 2016 sale.
“We bought them for what they could add to the existing gene pool, they have tremendous length and muscle and are going to breed some great sheep,” Mr Hodgson said.
“With these rams, and Ardene's own sires, we are breeding some exceptional sheep on property.
Founded in 2012, by Bruce and his wife Jannie, Ardene acquired embryos from the Australian Foundation Flock, along with 12 stud ewes from its dispersal. Since then, Ardene has embarked on numerous embryo transfer programs.
“We can increase our numbers and increase our genetic gain dramatically,” Mr Hodgson said. “We have got some ewes which are not 12 months old, but have been flushed three times, which adds huge genetic depth."
Ardene is a sheep and cropping property, producing wheat, canola and faba beans.
“The sheep are fairly intensive, we went away from a commercial operation to the stud, when we were introduced to Australian Whites,” Mr Hodgson said. “We started developing them, because we saw they had a bright future.
“We could see there was an advantage with the Australian Whites, being an easy care animal, and we just thought it made sense to start a stud, so we jumped in with both feet.
“We bought some rams and joined over our commercial ewes and were really impressed - we could see where the sheep industry was heading, especially on the back of how Dorpers have changed the country. These are a better option, for us, in this part of the world; they have a good carcase, good structure and a really good temperament. They have the ability to handle the wetter conditions – we had 750mm last year and with their constitution and exceptional soundness, we had no worries, at all.”
Ardene now run 600 stud ewes, resulting in 1000 lambs this year.
The stud aims to produce a “very low maintenance, fast growing, early maturing animal, with a high yielding carcase.”
The Australian Whites will cycle all year around, producing three lambs in two years.
Sheep are sold to all parts of South Australia, into Tasmania and southern New South Wales and throughout Victoria.
“We have clients from Gippsland to Kangaroo Island and Burra,” Mr Hodgson said.
Ewes were joined from five to 18 months of age, with a 135per cent lambing.
Rams were used at a rate of one to a hundred, plus one.
“We have had two embryo programs completed in March and April, and another one set for the end of June. The stud ewes will start lambing mid-August and there’ll be another embryo program in late August,” Mr Hodgson said.
“They are now selected on type – if they don’t fit what we are trying to achieve, they will go into a commercial flock.”
The Australian White was derived from a select four way cross of a Von Rooy, White Dorper, Poll Dorset and Texel, and had been a stable breed for seven years.
Mr Hodgson said farmers were using them as terminal sires, over Dorsets, White Suffolks, Dorpers or Wiltipolls, to “breed a better lamb and end up with a shedding sheep. There’s no shearing, no flies and no lice,” he said.
Farmers were showing an increased interest in the Australian Whites, with a number of repeat buyers at the annual October, on-farm sale.
“They might only buy a handful of rams to see what the progeny is like -but they are then coming back and buying more.”
An enthusiastic supporter of the first Stock and Land Sheep Week, The Hodgsons said the stud would have all types of animals on show.
“Our main thing is just to showcase what we are doing, people can come and have a good look at our operation and see how this breed could complement their own business interests. They can ask questions and see what they are all about.”