ONE chapter is closing and another opening for Minlaton stud sheep breeders Peter and Julie Button, with the first stage of their White Suffolk ewe dispersal in November heralding a new era.
A combination of timing, workload and age led the Buttons to the hard decision to completely disperse their 23-year-old White Suffolk stud and reduce the number of breeding ewes in their Suffolk and Black Composite stud flock to 100.
Far from jettisoning into a quiet retirement, Mr Button will continue to run the Suffolk stud, in a smaller capacity, and has reactivated his original passion - his Hampshire Downs stud.
Having started their sheep breeding journey in the 1980s, specialising in Hampshire Downs and Poll Dorsets, the Buttons' transition into White Suffolks in 1997 was a fortuitous one.
Persuaded by their children to buy a few White Suffolk rams, the rest is history, with the Buttons forging a highly-respected stud operation, as well as enjoying their fair share of success in the showring.
While the Buttons' Royal Adelaide Show highlight reel is lengthy - including supreme White Suffolk exhibit for a ram in 2017, which then sold for $17,000 in the Adelaide Elite Sale, supreme shortwool ram for a Suffolk in 2019, and being in the supreme line-up with four different breeds - Mr Button said they had gleaned the most satisfaction from the happiness of their commercial clients.
"The fact we've been able to consistently sell 90 rams in our sale, with the swing to cropping on the Yorke Peninsula, and attract new local clients plus expand into the Mid North and Burra has been very satisfying," he said.
"We've been able to get new clients in and they've stayed and given us good feedback about what the rams have done in their commercial enterprises.
"As much as it's nice to win prizes at the show, your bread and butter is your flock rams."
Mr Button said 95 per cent of the stud's focus had been on commercial relevance, targeting a genetic balance of muscle, growth and fat.
"We do show so we've still got to breed a sheep that is true to type, but our mating strategies are always focused around getting the correct genetic balance that I think will suit our commercial clients," he said.
"We've never bought a ram that's a show ram or bought a ram based on figures if we didn't like the sheep."
Ramsay Park has reached a satisfying stage where the vast majority of its sheep fit within a small genetic band and that is true of the dispersal ewes.
"What we've got in the hogget ewes to sell, and what we've mated up this year for next year's dispersal will genetically be pretty tight, and that is high muscle, growth and we've targeted positive fat in our matings the last two years," he said.
"That bit of positive fat helps finish lambs in tighter years."
The ability to finish lambs in tight years has attracted a widespread client base, from the southern Yorke Peninsula up to Burra and further north, then east to Broken Hill, NSW.
With the sheep industry in a strong position and a lot of work to put into getting their White Suffolks to a high level, Mr Button said it was the right time to move on.
"We've made a lot of investment in rams lately to get to a level and I think from our end to get the full benefit, and get as much interest as we can, we had to go down the path of a full White Suffolk dispersal," he said.
The first stage of the White Suffolk dispersal will be held on November 6, with an on-property sale of 350 to 400 breeding ewes. The final ewe dispersal is slated for October 2021 with two on-property ram sales to be held - in 2020 and 2021.
Fifty to 60 Suffolk and Black Composite ewes will be offered in the November sale.
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