The Sweeney family have been bringing Border Leicester sheep to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show since 2012 and are looking forward to being a part of this year's feature breed celebrations.
Based at Merrygoen, NSW, Reg and Robyn Sweeney and their daughter Rowena Munro believe the 10-hour trip south to Bendigo is worth it, providing the perfect opportunity to showcase their Bindaree and Nundoone Border Leicester studs to a wider audience of people.
"The show is a great promotion for our studs, but it is not just about the ribbons for us," Ms Munro said.
"After a couple of years of not seeing anyone's sheep, we are really looking forward to catching up with everyone in Bendigo."
The Sweeney family established their Bindaree Border Leicester stud in 1995, after having difficulty sourcing Border Leicester rams locally to join to a portion of their Merino flock for first-cross ewe production.
The stud was founded on Cadell, Kelso and The Oaks bloodlines.
"My family had always run Merinos and when wool prices slumped, they decided to diversify," Ms Munro said.
"They could see the commercial value and the Border Leicester and Merino breeds certainly work hand in hand."
With demand growing for their quality Border Leicester rams, Ms Munro and her husband Angus, who is the breeding manager for the Poll Boonoke and Wanganella Merino studs, purchased the well-known Nundoone Border Leicester flock and stud prefix in 2017 from long-time breeders Ian and Kerry Cameron at Narromine, NSW.
"The purchase of Nundoone in its entirety was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Ms Munro said.
"We now join just over 600 ewes across the two studs.
"The studs are managed together, but are kept separate at joining and lambing time so we can track and analyse each breeding line."
The studs have become an integral part of the Sweeney family's mixed-farming operation which comprises a self-replacing commercial Merino flock of 4500 ewes, with the surplus breeders joined to Border Leicester rams.
They also have an extensive cropping program sowing wheat, barley, oats, canola and lupins, along with a small Angus herd which is being rebuilt following the drought.
The self-replacing Merino flock and Border Leicester studs are run on the Sweeneys' home property, Pinehurst, which has been in their family for more than 100 years, while the first-cross ewe enterprise is managed on a separate farm.
"Across both studs we are aiming to breed structurally-correct sheep, with good bone and carcase, and being from a Merino background we place high emphasis on their wool quality too," Ms Munro said.
"Being a maternal breed we class hard on fertility, mothering ability, weaning rates and early growth rates to breed an efficient and productive sheep."
Early adopters of performance recording and pedigree data, all of the Sweeney family's stud sheep are measured for growth rates from birth, scanned for eye muscle area and fat depth and have full Australian Sheep Breeding Values through Lambplan.
They also introduced micron testing and the recording of fleece weights about five years ago.
"Utilising the latest technology and performance recording is an important part of our stud management," Ms Munro said.
"But a visual assessment will always be carried out first and forms the basis of our breeding and selection decisions."
The Sweeney family have enjoyed plenty of success in the show ring over the years and although the team for the ASWS is yet to be finalised, they are planning to take about 10 ram and ewe lambs.
Bindaree stud highlights have included winning the champion ram, supreme Border Leicester exhibit and the supreme longwool interbreed group at Bendigo in 2019.
They also won the junior champion ram and champion ewe in 2015.
Along with Bendigo, the family also attend the NSW State Sheep Show at Dubbo, NSW, and exhibit at local shows including Dunedoo, NSW, and Mendooran, NSW.
This year, the Bindaree and Nundoone studs will offer 160 stud and flock rams at their annual sale in early September.
For the first time they will also offer 30 specially-selected stud ewes due to demand from their clients.
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