East Bungaree stays true to bloodlines

Brooks family steers iconic Merino stud forward


Sheep
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Years of experience working on top Merino studs in South Australia's Mid North has given Tony and Mark Brooks, Hallett, the grounding to succeed at the helm of one of Australia's oldest studs, East Bungaree.

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NATIONAL WIN: Mark Bazley, Riverina Wool, presents the national March shorn Merino pair award to Mark and Tony Brooks at Bendigo last year.

NATIONAL WIN: Mark Bazley, Riverina Wool, presents the national March shorn Merino pair award to Mark and Tony Brooks at Bendigo last year.

Years of experience working on top Merino studs in South Australia's Mid North has given Tony and Mark Brooks, Hallett, the grounding to succeed at the helm of one of Australia's oldest studs.

In 2005 the brothers and their families jumped at the opportunity to buy the East Bungaree stud flock from the NSW-based Litchfield family from Cooma.

Hazeldean had run the stud from 1995 after buying it off the Hawker family.

Fourteen years later the Brookses have gained enormous respect, continuing the philosophy of breeding rams with strong constitution which cut plenty of wool, and have good carcases.

"Mark and I had always been around stud sheep, I had been working at East Bungaree and before that I was jackarooing and managing Willogoleche and Mark was at Greenfields," he said.

"For us it was about keeping the breeding going and preserving the heritage of the bloodline.

"Attending the Adelaide ram sales growing up, the sheep were either Bungaree or Collinsville bloodlines so to be able to buy into the Bungaree bloodline was special to us."

Tony said they had admired East Bungaree's heavy-cutting bloodlines and their reputation for being productive in pastoral areas.

The stud now runs 3200 stud ewes with the aim to sell about 1000 rams a year.

This includes 300 rams at the annual on-property auction each September.

Many of these go in volume orders to the north-east and north-west pastoral areas of SA as well as the western division of NSW.

"You never knew how things would go but we haven't over complicated things," Tony said.

"We are breeding true-to-type rams that all look the same so if people like one they can buy 10 and they are good value for money."

PRODUCTIVE EWES: East Bungaree's stud ewes which cut 7.5-8 kilograms of wool. The stud's long-term lambing percentage is between 95-100pc.

PRODUCTIVE EWES: East Bungaree's stud ewes which cut 7.5-8 kilograms of wool. The stud's long-term lambing percentage is between 95-100pc.

Showing sheep is an important part of their business including at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show at Bendigo.

"We get a lot of enjoyment from having our sheep line up on the mat against everyone else, catching up with other stud breeders and if we are lucky enough winning a ribbon or two," he said.

In 2018 they scored their biggest win taking out the prestigious national March shorn pair.

RELATED: ASWS 2018: East Bungaree rich wools win national pairs

"As a pair they were structurally very correct with well-nourished wools, with nice purity and the balance we look for," he said.

The 21.1 micron ram sold at the stud's 2018 on-property sale for $10,000 to Old Kelvale stud, Burra, SA, while the Otto family ewe has been retained in the stud.

Even more important than the show ring accolades though is the performance of East Bungaree blood sheep in the paddock, maintaining good lambing percentages and wool cut in tough years.

"For us a sheep has to stand square and be good on its feet, structure is number one," he said.

"We will not accept a good-woolled sheep if its structure is not right, it is the building block for everything."

East Bungaree's stud ewes cut between 7.5-8 kilograms of wool, with the flock average around 22 micron.

The past year has been particularly tough with their Hallett property receiving only 225 millimetres for 2018, about half its annual rainfall.

But they know many of their clients are suffering as well.

Tony is optimistic more favourable seasons will return with 100mm rain falling in 2019 to mid-June including 30mm recently.

They hope this will enable themselves and their clients to capitalise on strong wool prices.

"Now is our time, it doesn't get much better than this," he said.

"We are the business of our clients cutting more wool not less and breeding sheep that are fertile."

The Brooks remain dedicated stud breeders but in 2017 they also leased the Mt Bryan AI Services.

"We leased the AI centre to keep it open with many of the breeders around here collecting (semen) from their top rams," he said.

"If anything we are using more of our own rams these days, family lines are important to us to breed sheep that are true-to-type."

East Bungaree will exhibit a team of about 15 sheep later this month at Bendigo.

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