Southdown sheep are back at Gum Park, the Nolan family farm at Hynam.
“I remember so clearly as a kid, my father, Ray, using Southdown rams as a terminal sire,” said Dee Nolan.
Now Dee and her husband John Southgate have established South Glynde, the only SA-based Southdown stud listed in Southdown Australia.
The breed is not only back at Gum Park, but is making a comeback in the prime lamb industry thanks to its reputation for easy lambing and eating quality.
The Southdown is a good ram for first births, as the quick-maturing lambs have small heads and narrow shoulders.
“Farmers have started buying rams from us for mating with ewe lambs, and they ring up and tell us that they didn’t have to pull any lambs,” said Dee.
For Dee and John, the decision to get a flock of Southdowns was happenstance.
“We had planted olive groves, and we wanted to have an organic farming system. We wanted sheep in the olive groves to graze and fertilise them,” said Dee.
“But I’d been away, working in the UK for twenty-three years, and hadn’t appreciated that Australian sheep had become a lot bigger. We bought some first cross ewes but they ate too much of the trees.”
Recalling her father’s Southdowns, she purchased twenty ewes and two rams from the Fincham Burando dispersal sale in 2007.
While Southdowns had also become taller and longer, thanks to breeding in New Zealand to better suit the modern prime lamb market, they retained their hefty hindquarters and ease of lambing. The bigger-framed Southdowns first came to Australian circa the late 1970s and in the past six to seven years, demand for them has taken off.
John and Dee have worked hard to get top Australian and New Zealand bloodlines in to the South Glynde flock, and at the same time, have been building up a small flock of the pre-1970s-sized Southdowns, now called Babydoll Southdowns.
This is a slow process as there are very few of the breed left from this era, but they too are in great demand for small-acre farmers and vineyard owners.
The South Glynde stud name pays tribute to the long history of the breed. The Southdown sheep was developed by John Ellman of the English village of Glynde in circa 1778. The sheep from the Sussex Downs became so popular with the British aristocracy that they competed for the best progeny.
Among them was the Duke of Richmond at his Goodwood Estate on the Sussex Downs where, two centuries later, his descendent has reintroduced a Southdown stud. On a recent UK trip, John and Dee were lucky enough to visit the stud and see first-hand not only the countryside where the breed originated, but how it is also making a big comeback in England.
For information on South Glynde Southdown sales please contact Robin Steen (0428 838 195) or Dee Nolan (0411 375 534). Inspections by appointment only.
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