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Poll Boonoke, a strong foundation and future

Posted by Rabobank Australia on

Quartermaine Family

A Merino stud as dynamic as it is visionary, Poll Boonoke was influential in establishing the polled Merino in Australia, and remains a significant contributor of polled Merino genetics to the industry.

Now 80 years since its formation, the continued merit of the Poll Boonoke Stud in the modern industry remains evident – recent triumphs include winning the 2022 Australian Supreme Merino Ram at the Rabobank National Merino Sheep Show and Sale, as well as the Australian Merino All-Purpose Ram at the 2022 Australian Sheep and Wool Show.

After a two-year Covid hiatus showing their rams, Poll Boonoke's Angus Munro said it had been an exciting year – with the recent accolades welcome validation of the stud management’s breeding objectives and strategies.

“Otway Falkiner established the Poll Boonoke Stud 80 years ago, he was an innovative sheepman and committed to polled Merino breeding in Australia,” Angus said.

Now owned by Australian Food and Agriculture, Poll Boonoke, and the Company’s horned Merino Stud Wanganella, are both managed with a focus on productivity.

“Today we are fortunate to have a stud management team with substantial Merino breeding knowledge and experience, and everyone is passionate about the future of the AFA Studs in the Merino industry.”

“To have this recent recognition is heartening, and a reflection of our team’s commitment.”

A ram to fit the bill

The stud continues to break new ground, with the 2022 Australian Supreme Merino Ram, PB200780, also the Grand Champion March-Shorn Ram at the Rabobank National Merino Show, believed to be the first short wool ram to win the Australian title.

PB200780 is affectionately known as 'Bill', in honour of Poll Boonoke stud representative Bill Mildren who passed away last year.

Weighing in at 151 kilograms, with an eye muscle depth of 51.5 millimetres and fat depth of nine millimetres, Angus said this was the first time Bill had been shown due to previous covid restrictions.

“He’s a 2020 drop and already has lambs on the ground so we’ve known for a while that he was a good ram. For him to do something that hasn’t been done before is a terrific outcome.”

Embodying Poll Boonoke’s dual-purpose objectives, Bill will be retained in the stud, and – as one of Poll Boonoke’s semen sires – his genetics will be available for sale to domestic and international breeding operations.

Bill also enjoys an impressive family tree, with his full ET (embryo transfer) 2019-drop brother winning the Australian All-Purpose Ram at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in 2019.

Whilst always nice to come away with a blue ribbon, Angus said more than anything the show provided an opportunity to compare livestock and breeding outcomes to determine where the Poll Boonoke sheep stood against their peers.

“The comparative insight is invaluable, and apart from company productivity results, gives our team the best indication on where we are and where we need to concentrate our efforts,” Angus said.

“We’re very proud of Bill and how well he’s performed, and it’s nice to know our stud continues to hold its own on the national stage.”

Quartermaine Family

Poll Registered Stud No 1

Proudly steeped in pastoral history, Otway Falkiner and the Poll Boonoke Stud have made a significant contribution to today’s polled Merino genetic base, with Otway a firm believer in the benefits of non-horned rams.

“He saw the advantage of sheep not having horns – it meant less incidents of stock getting caught in fences and scrub, less flystrike, and from a production point of view, each ram spent less energy growing horns.”

The foundation of today’s Poll Boonoke flock is based on Falkiner’s 1934 drop of ‘sports’, that is, rams born naturally without horns.

From these selected rams the Poll Boonoke Merino Stud has evolved, attaining 80 years of genetic advantage to deliver a modern poll that are “big framed, plain bodied, early maturing sheep growing heavy fleeces of long stapled, soft, medium wool”.

The opportunity to provide the world with one of the most versatile natural fibres, wool, remains a source of great pride at the Poll Boonoke stud.

In light of Woolmark’s recent international campaign ‘Wear Wool, Not Fossil Fuel’,  Australian Food and Agriculture General Manager Justin Campbell said he was thrilled to see the wool industry “capitalising on its natural and sustainable credentials”.

“The qualities of Merino wool over man made alternatives have been under-recognised, as has the natural sustainability of producing wool.”

“Increased social conscience and origin awareness combined with a green focus should mean that consumers are happier to wear a product that originates from a flock of Merinos grazing on the Riverina plains as opposed to a fibre derived from oil fields.” 

Moving forward

Ambitious for the future of the studs, and receptive to all available technologies such as Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) and DNA testing, the stud team balances up the generated information to ensure management insights are backed up by data.

 “This allows us to provide a product of excellence to our clients, whilst refining and maximising our own productivity and business profitability,” Justin said.

As a Rabobank client, Justin said that partnering with a bank that solely focussed on agriculture underpinned a well-aligned vision.

“We have a fantastic relationship with our managers, Sally Bull, Bernie Connolly and Hamish McAlpin. They know what’s going on in our business at any given time, and are unwavering in their commitment, and genuine engagement towards our operation,” Justin said.

“We have also benefitted from Rabobank’s extensive global and local network, having been introduced to a number of key industry professionals and supporters who could assist us with our business decisions.”