Pas­sion for sheep farm­ing runs deep

Countryman - - WOOL - Bob Gar­nant

Arthur River Merino pro­ducer John Pas­coe’s WA farm­ing her­itage goes back to the 1830s when his great-grand­fa­ther, Alexan­der Richard­son, landed sheep at Cos­sack’s Tien Tsin Har­bour.

“Af­ter read­ing a favourable re­port from notable English ex­plorer Fran­cis Gre­gory, my great­grand­fa­ther, at 21 years of age, charted a boat to bring 500 sheep from Vic­to­ria to the Pil­bara where he founded Pyra­mid Sta­tion,” Mr Pas­coe said.

“He later mar­ried John Wel­lard’s daugh­ter and set­tled on the prop­erty Wel­lard, which was pur­chased from de­funct Thomas Peel on the Ser­pen­tine River, which is still in the hands of fam­ily descen­dants.”

A few gen­er­a­tions later, Mr Pas­coe’s par­ents ran three prop­er­ties at Wil­liams, Wa­gin and Arthur River, which were con­sol­i­dated into one 1800ha prop­erty, Red Hills, 14 years ago.

Their pas­sion for Merino breed­ing has con­tin­ued, with Mr Pas­coe and his wife, Martina, and two school-aged chil­dren, Tom and Louisa, run­ning a flock of 4500 An­der­son-blood Poll Merino ewes.

Ms Pas­coe, pre­vi­ously a Perth­based den­tist, gave up life in the city for love and coun­try.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate our life­style and we are proud wool pro­duc­ers on our 80/20 sheep/crop­ping prop­erty, which pro­duces a cou­ple of hun­dred bales a year,” she said.

When Coun­try­man vis­ited the an­nual wool har­vest at Red Hills last week, it was no­ticed straight away that there was no wool ta­ble in the shed.

Mr Pas­coe said they had not been skirt­ing their clip for more than 20 years.

“We feel pay­ing ex­tra shed staff, par­tic­u­larly a wool­classer, is not nec­es­sary,” he said.

“Cur­rently we have a presser and a pro­fes­sional wool han­dler who are eas­ily keep­ing up with five shear­ers, but we un­der­stand the trade-off re­quires a well-timed pre­sum­mer shear­ing sched­ule to avoid a blow-out in veg­etable mat­ter con­tent,” he said.

Mr Pas­coe said he re­lied on the shear­ing con­trac­tor to en­sure shed staff had the ex­pe­ri­ence to fill in as wool­classer and re­move un­suit­able fleeces.

“This is work­ing well, as 90 per cent of the wool goes straight into the wool press and branded AAAM, and the bales are de­clared as un­skirted and sold at auc­tion as a type D non-con­form­ing lot,” he said.

Wool Agency bro­ker An­drew John­ston said pre­par­ing a non­skirted clip was not for ev­ery­one.

“The Pas­coes are very ex­pe­ri­enced and are in the ca­pa­ble hands of a re­spon­si­ble shear­ing con­trac­tor,” he said.

Nar­ro­gin shear­ing con­trac­tor Ed­die McEl­lis­ter said it was good busi­ness to pro­vide the ap­pro­pri­ate staff to pre­pare his clients’ clips to the high­est stan­dard.

“We have a very ex­pe­ri­enced wool­classer, Awhina Thomp­son, who is bril­liant at sort­ing a non­skirted shed,” he said.

An­other fac­tor in the Pas­coe fam­ily’s sheep pro­gram has been the use of Aus­tralian Sheep Breed­ing Val­ues in se­lect­ing rams for their nu­cleus flock.

“I look for ex­treme growth fig­ures and clean fleece weights from the An­der­son Rams stud, which is one of the few seed­stock pro­duc­ers that has nu­mer­ous rams in the top one per cent of these traits across Aus­tralia,” Mr Pas­coe said.

“Early growth gives us an ad­van­tage, as we sell half our wether lambs to gra­ziers, off mum, and the bal­ance go straight to WAMMCO in June and con­sis­tently fin­ish at an av­er­age 22kg car­case weight.”

Mr Pas­coe said he had been achiev­ing a 100 per cent av­er­age lamb­ing for more than 10 years and was pleased with his ram sup­plier and the science be­hind the breed­ing.

“It is hoped more pro­mo­tion can go to­wards Aus­tralia’s im­age as the best an­i­mal wel­fare coun­try in the world, be­cause if peo­ple don’t trust you, science doesn’t mat­ter,” he said.

Pic­ture: Bob Gar­nant

Arthur River wool­grow­ers John and Martina Pas­coe are rapt with their Red Hills har­vest.

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