For Corriedales and love of history

IN the rolling hills of Evandale sits Harland Rise, another colonial property that can trace its involvement back to the foundations of Merino sheep studs in Australia.

Peter and Claire Blackwood have owned the 52ha property for just under a decade.

In that time they’ve busied themselves unearthing the intriguing story of the historical property.

“We have records of a church service conducted here on the still-standing chapel in 1836,” Peter said.

“There’s also a fair bit of information on the farm’s involvement of establishing the Merino breed in Tasmania over the past century.”

As for their own operations on the farm, they’ve stuck with the status quo.

On their main property they run their Blackwood Corriedales stud, consisting of around 200 stud ewes as well as a number of stud rams.

“The property was run as a Corriedale stud in the 1920s too,” Peter said.

“That was supposedly after the time my great-grandfather, or great-great grandfather had spent time on the property with a business partner.

“There is a lot of that sort of history in this part of Tasmania.”

Having come from a property in Cressy before their Evandale days, they also run around 500 commercial ewes on their secondary property in Nile.

Peter came to the sheep grazier and breeder game with a background he described as an “umbrella of agriculture”.

His previous experience in animal contracting, livestock health companies and on the corporate side of agriculture has established a strong belief in the ‘numbers’ behind his sheep breeding.

“We focus a lot on data collection from our stud,” he said.

“We’re looking to continue to breed strong production traits like genetic lambing percentages, eating qualities and growth rates”

“We record data from birth right through to adults, the ewes are measured every year for condition scores and weights.

“There’s a lot of things going on in the sheep space with genomics, measuring and data collection, we’re definitely trying to be part of it all.”

This is reflected in their involvement in the ‘Corriedale Eating Quality Genomics Project’ alongside MLA and the University of Adelaide.

The project aimed to address the insufficient numbers of Corriedales with phenotypes and genotypes that is required for genomic tools to be utilised by the breed.

The project provided further information for a database aimed in maximising genetic progress in the breed.

That attention to detail is reflected in the sale results for the Blackwood stud.

Five rams brought an average of $3500 each at the recent Sheepvention in Victoria, with a top price of $5500.

They also sold upwards of 50 rams at their yearly ram sale in November last year.

“We’re getting the Corriedales to a stage where they’re very competitive with other breeds,” Peter said.

“You’ve got a wool component and lamb components so they were true dual-purpose sheep, where they rightly should be.”

Peter said the life with livestock is perfectly suited to where he and Claire want to be.

“We like livestock, it’s a smaller property so we have to value-add to what we have. “Studs are the perfect fit for that.”