Long career in wool recognised

FOURTH-generation stockman John Groves has seen his fair share of change in the sheep and wool industry over the years.

Mr Groves’s contribution to the Tasmanian wool sector was recently recognised when he was awarded the 2020 Bruce Forster Laincot Memorial Award at the Campbell Town Show last month after last year’s show did not go ahead as usual due to COVID.

Mr Groves was born at Campbell Town and left school in 1958 when he started his first job in the shearing shed at Hanelth.

He stayed on the property for four years before taking on a job at Leverington with the Mills family where he stayed until 1987.

It was after this that he started his long-time association with the McEwan family working on their well-known operation Trefusis near Ross.

In the early days, he worked for Jim McEwan and later for Mr McEwan’s daughter Georgina Wallace and her husband Hamish, who continue to run the property today. Merinos are a big part of the Trefusis operation, but earlier in his career said Polwarths were the breed of choice.

“At Leverington it was Polwarths and they were probably 40 per cent of the wool growing sheep in Tasmania those days,” he said.
“But there’s very few of them now.”

Mr Groves said while the basics of sheep management had remained the same, technology was now playing a big part.

“Basically how you handle them is the same, but the biggest changes have been in how they’re sold with the introduction of AuctionsPlus and all that,” he said.
“Once upon a time all the work with sheep was very physical, but now they’ve got a lot of equipment and handling machines to help with things like toe nailing or crutching.”

When Mr Groves started at Trefusis the flock was made up of mainly superfine Saxon Merino sheep.

“It’s changed a lot and now it is more of a fine wool stud.
“They are a lot more productive and although they cut more wool and are bigger, they’ve still maintained the microns and anything below 18.5 microns is still selling really well.
It’s been gradual but compared to what it was 10 years ago it has been a big change in the sheep.”

Showing at Campbell Town has always been part of the Trefusis stud and Mr Groves said since the new stud direction they had regularly taken sheep over to the Australian Sheep and Wool Show at Bendigo.

“It’s good to go over there and see all the sheep from all over Australia really,” he said.

Mr Groves said while mainland sheep tended to be bigger, Tasmania did have an edge. “The advantage Tasmania had is the quality of the wool.

“It always yields well. I don’t say that parts over there haven’t got wool as good, but Tassie’s clip always seems to stack up well, especially the fine end.”

Mr Groves worked on the property full time for 25 years before officially retiring. He still goes there a couple of times a week to lend a hand.

“I wouldn’t be going down there now if I didn’t enjoy it, because it’s not like I have to.”

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