A century of riding the sheep’s back

A CENTURY of the Fairbank Southdown Stud will be celebrated with an on-farm sale in Hagley next week, showcasing a century of experience, evolution and graft.

Spanning four generations, the Fairbank Southdown stud will celebrate its 100th birthday with their 18th on-farm sale, showcasing the culmination of generations of effort and experience poured into the stud.

The property came in to the Badcock family in 1903 but it was in 1922 that the stud was formed when Frank Horace Badcock purchased three rams and 31 ewes from a neighbouring flock.

Success soon followed the stud with champion ewes and rams being exhibited at Melbourne shows, the breeding line very much staying close to the original English imports during this time.

Fairbank Breeding ewes 1928 with Frank Horace Badcock in the background.

Vern Badcock took over the stud in 1932 and grew the stud to consist of over 500 ewes, before Frank and his brother, Owen, took the reins in the 1960s.

A return to the show circuits and the subsequent return to winning ways followed, and though Owen parted ways with the Fairbank name to establish the Whitemore House stud in 1971, a significant change in the breed genetics would come as a boon for the stud.

New Zealand genetics were introduced across the 1970s and 1980s, something the Fairbanks credited as contributing greatly to the ‘length’ of the breed and its continued success.

To diversify the portfolio, they also currently operate with a White Suffolk stud with approximately 180 head that was founded in 1984 and a Poll Dorset stud of around 300 head founded in 1969.

Fairbanks now makes up around 200ha of the Hagley countryside, with a rotation of cropping and pasture supporting the 1000-plus head of sheep on the property.

Today it’s Chris who runs the farm with the support of his father, Frank.

Chris returned to where he grew up after years in the agricultural field gaining experience in agronomy roles and rural management.

“I’ve always been here on weekends and after work, it’s not something you ever move away from,” Mr Badcock said.

“We run high-production pastures on a rotation with mixed cropping to benefit the livestock, alongside the pretty consistent use of AI for the flock.

“We are essentially a closed flock in that we don’t bring in a lot of other animals to the farm apart from the occasional stud sire.

“But we are accessing the best genetics available through AI, which we’ve done for the last 20 years.

“With that we’re able to access trait genetics that we perhaps wouldn’t normally be able to access, these are trait leaders and top 1 per cent rams that we’re able to implement into our stud.

“Today around 50 to 60 per cent of our joining’s in a year are from these high performance sires.”