STUD sires, show rings and sales have been a large part of Charles Rowett's upbringing, and the 22-year-old from Marrabel is all too keen to continue his involvement in SA's thriving sheep industry.
Having been heavily involved in the Ulandi Park Poll Dorset stud - run by his parents Clayton and Andrea Rowett - from a young age, Charles said stud life was always something he wanted to be a part of, rather than a venture he was pressured into continuing.
"It's something I am really passionate about, and something I have always really loved doing," he said.
This year marks the 40th year of Poll Dorset breeding for Ulandi Park, and Charles said the stud's focus had remained consistent across the decades.
"Nothing much has changed with what we're breeding, we still have a stud side focus, as well as the commercial side, aiming for early-maturing, clean, meaty, thick, easy-lambing rams," he said.
Looking back on his own involvement in the stud, Charles said 2009 was a standout year and one he will always remember fondly.
"That year, we had five different champion rams in three different shows, at Adelaide, Gawler and Melbourne. Those champion rams went on to win interbreed competitions as well," he said.
In 2014, Charles started his own Poll Dorset stud, North Ulandi. The stud was founded off the back of 15 ewes Charles bought from his parents, and semen from a sire at Felix Rams, Greenethorpe, NSW, using money from the school entrepreneur fund at Westminster College, where he was a year 11 student at the time.
"The ram from there had a low birthweight with big muscle, which I wanted to use to breed commercially-focused rams. The ram fitted all the requirements I was after," Charles said.
A good thing about the sheep world is everyone helps each other out, if you ever need to know something, you just ring a neighbour or another breeder and they will help out, no worries at all.
Success for North Ulandi was achieved early on in the piece, with a ram lamb and ewe lamb bred from the Greenethorpe genetics both winning their classes at the Royal Adelaide Show in 2014. The ram lamb still holds the record for heaviest ram lamb at Adelaide, weighing 91 kilograms at just six months old.
"That purchase (of the Greenthorpe semen) was well worth it, one of the later drop rams was also named reserve junior champion ram that same year," Charles said.
In 2016, after two years of breeding his own Poll Dorsets, Charles decided to change his direction, shifting away from a Poll Dorset focus and instead turning North Ulandi into a White Suffolk stud.
"I wasn't really achieving a new client base for North Ulandi, or dragging any new clients to the sale, and as good as it was with the Poll Dorsets, I was doing the same as what Mum and Dad had always done - I was ready to branch out," Charles said.
"It was a big discussion, but in the end I thought I'd get a White Suffolk ram and put him over the North Ulandi Poll Dorset ewes for the foundation of it, for the first cross, and I bred on from there."
The initial White Suffolk ram, DG150406, was sourced from Detpa Grove, Jeparit, Vic, in 2016, bought by Charles for $13,500. Other significant purchases have included a $7000 ram from Wingamin, Karoonda, in 2018, and a $10,000 sire from Detpa Grove last year.
North Ulandi now has 80 White Suffolk breeding ewes, while Ulandi Park has 500 Poll Dorset stud ewes, and despite being just a few years into the White Suffolk venture, Charles is consistently selling between 50 and 100 rams to commercial breeders each year.
He has attracted good interest from local breeders, as well as pastoralists further north, and is pleased to see returning buyers each year.
"Most people keep their cards pretty close to their chest in terms of feedback, but I always think if they come back and buy again the next year, that's a really good sign," he said.
No sales have been made to other White Suffolk studs yet, but Charles hopes appearances in the show ring next year and beyond will help build his stud's profile.
He said guidance and assistance from stock agents, his parents and fellow breeders had been invaluable when starting his own venture.
"A good thing about the sheep world is everyone helps each other out, if you ever need to know something, you just ring a neighbour or another breeder and they will help out, no worries at all."
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Charles' focus with the White Suffolks was largely the same as the Poll Dorset breeding aims.
"I still look after them the same way, still care for them and do all the same things. I still want low birthweight, heavily muscled sheep for the commercial side of things," he said.
"People these days, the younger generation, are getting tied up in numbers. I think phenotype and capability are still more important than what a computer says is good."
While Charles also helps with his family's cropping program, and has an interest in breeding bucking bulls, his number one focus is sheep.
"At the moment, times are good in the sheep industry, and I don't see what else you'd rather be doing," he said.
"Prices are good, the commercial lamb job is good, and hopefully going forward for this year's sale (on September 25), if things stay the way they are, we should have another successful sale. We'll just keep on ticking along."
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