Ardene's Australian Whites rule supreme

Australian Whites champions Ardene


Sheep and Wool Show News
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The story behind Ardene, which swept the floor at the Australian Whites competition during the Australian Sheep & Wool Show and went on to win supreme Australian cleanskin exhibit (Interbreed).

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The most successful Australian Whites exhibitor at the Australian Sheep & Wool show swept the floor this weekend and went on to win supreme Australian cleanskin exhibit (interbreed).

The back story is perhaps even more remarkable.

Ardene Australian Whites was crowned most successful exhibitor for its breed after winning champion ram, champion ewe and champion pair.

While owners Bruce and Jannie Hodgson said they "never know" how their sheep will perform, the couple cleaned up last year's champion ram and ewe as well as the reserve champion cleanskin and, to top it off, the interbreed championship.

They won the interbreed title again last weekend and, if anything, their level of competitiveness is set to grow.

The seemingly fearless couple has made life-changing decisions that have brought pin-sharp focus on the event.

The Hodgsons relocated Ardene Australian Whites from Darlington in western Victoria to Mt Torrens, SA, last December.

"The move was mainly for lifestyle reasons - we're slowing down and instead of having 3000 acres of raised-bed cropping, we have 500 acres solely focused on sheep," Mr Hodgson said.

The stud itself was only established in 2012.

"The 'bing' moment came when we bought a couple of Australian White rams to go over our composite ewes," he said.

"The ewes were 95kg on a bad day but there was a huge labour requirement to run them.

"They were only producing 3-4kg of wool and we were just breaking even or losing money if we factored in our own labour.

"We realised Australian Whites offered an easy care, high profit alternative.

"There's no crutching, no shearing and no fly-blown sheep and they thrive anywhere from the snow to arid Australia.

"We get a 54 per cent yield in carcase compared to the industry average of 45-48pc and you can run 30pc more Australian Whites than crossbreds."

While acknowledging that the Australian Whites were small, with average weights of 70-75kg for ewes and 110-120kg for rams, Mr Hodgson said they did not need to be "massive" to be profitable.

"The lambing rate is 160pc and when you times that by the 30pc more sheep you can run, that equates to 208pc more lamb," he said.

"You can lamb three times in two years because they're multi-oestrus.

"They're a terminal sire or can be self-replacing.

"Birth weights are an average 3.5kg and they grow extremely fast so they can get up and move quickly with their mothers and are less vulnerable to predators.

"They're born with hair and have thick, fibrous skin that helps protect them from the weather and by 16-17 weeks, they have a carcase weight of 22-24kg."

So convinced were the Hodgsons, they sold all but a couple of hundred of their composite ewes to retain as recipients for Australian White embryos and started Ardene, the "one and only stud" they say they will ever have.

Ardene now runs 550 stud ewes and sells 120 to 140 rams a year, including live export to China and semen to Sri Lanka.

It is remarkable progress in just seven years but the Hodgsons are not the type to rest on their laurels.

Restaurants and butchers are in their sights as Ardene explores marketing value-added branded product.

"Australian White meat has a lower melting point than 600-day grain-fed Wagyu and it's rich in omega fats," Mr Hodgson said.

"We're planning to supply chefs and butchers with our own product and meat sourced from clients, too."

All the sheep exhibited by Ardene at the Australian Wool & Sheep Show were bred by the Hodgsons and Ardene's next annual on-property sale will be on October 11.

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