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TAS Country : September 23rd 2010
mber 24, 2010 17 Farm Feature Armidale It may be one of the state's leading thoroughbred studs, but the Whishaw family's Armidale property has a long farming history that is continuing today. LEADING THE WAY: Armidale Stud staff Harriet Jory holds the mare as Piotr Stankewicz gives a foal leading lessons. Pictures: KAROLIN MacGREGOR Horses are really hard on pastures because they selectively graze out all the desirable grasses, so that's where the cross- grazing is really good.' put into the cropping rotation and can be used to grow a variety of crops, including lucerne, barley, poppies, peas, beans, lupins, clover and even cabbage seed. David said they also used short-term rye grasses between crops to give them extra feed for the young horses. ''Any paddocks that we think are getting a bit low on quality we can just take them out of the rotation and put them into the cropping programs for a few years,'' he said. ''It means we can get rid of all the weeds, improve the fertility and fence them safely without having to worry about stock being in there. ''Then at the end, we sow them back down with pasture.'' The family also buy in store lambs to fatten on the property, and background about 150 cattle a year for the feedlot. Mrs Whishaw said improving their pasture quality had prompted a significant increase in production on the horse grazing areas, which meant they had more area available for other grazing or cropping. The family also use cross-grazing with the other livestock to keep the pastures healthy and productive. ''Horses are really hard on pastures because they selectively graze out all the desirable grasses, so that's where the cross-grazing is really good,'' David said. The family have also bought a large amount of water from the Meander Dam, which ensures they now have a reliable supply of water to irrigate horse pastures and crops through summer. About 45ha of the property is now under irrigation for horse pastures, while 70ha is covered by the centre pivot. There is also another 120ha of the property that can be irrigated using gun-style irrigators, and about 60ha of that is used each year. Running large amounts of horses means they need significant quantities of hay, lucerne, barley lupins and oats. David said that this year they hoped to be self-sufficient in everything except the oats, which would mean significant savings and ensured they had complete control over the quality of their horse feed. The family's thoroughbred enterprise is also quite diverse. Breeding their own horses is something the family take a lot of pride in, and each year they produce about 40 yearlings at Armidale. Most are sold at the annual Magic Millions Yearling Sale in Launceston, and a small number are sold in Melbourne. Mrs Whishaw said that over the years they had worked hard to improve the bloodlines of their broodmares and had bought in top-quality stallions, a move that was now paying off. Over the past 12 months the family have had a highly successful year, earning the Broodmare of the Year and Horse of the Year titles. Mrs Whishaw said a lot of their success came down to the fact that their horses were run on top- quality pastures and in a natural environment from a young age. ''We run them in a fairly natural system, which is why we produce good, sound, tough horses,'' she said. ''They have really good-quality feed right from when they're born, so they grow really well and they're all run together out in big undulating paddocks, so they have the chance to run around, play and do what horses do, which we think is really important.'' Mrs Whishaw said keeping the young horses growing at a steady rate without pushing them too much also meant that when it comes to yearling sale time they are well-grown. She said this also helped avoid potential problems with the young horses' joints that can be caused by growing too quickly. Unfortunately, like many industries, the racing industry has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, and demand and prices for thoroughbred yearlings over the past two years have been lower. Mrs Whishaw said the low level of racing prizemoney in Tasmania was also holding back the local industry. ''The racing industry is fantastic, it's clean, green and it is highly labour-intensive and that's not going to change,''she said. ''Unfortunately, down here we just don't seem to get the same support from the State Government that they do in the other states.'' The stud currently stand five stallions --- Helike, Ladoni, Savoire Vivre, Telesto and Tough Speed. On the property the stallions are kept in the stallion area and have their individual yards with purpose-built shelters. Two large stable blocks that can house about 47 horses are also situated on the property, as well as a veterinary area, including a mare and foal crush, round yards and a horse walker. Four special foaling down stables are also included, which are under 24-hour video surveillance. Spring is the busiest time at Armidale, where up to 120 mares a year will foal and many will then also be re-served. All the mares are follicle-tested before being served to ensure they are mated at the optimum time. The mares are then pregnancy-tested three times at set intervals after serving to make sure they are definitely in foal. Mrs Whishaw said having a specialist horse veterinary clinic based nearby at Longford was vital, especially when it came to emergency foaling situations. All the foaling mares are kept under careful watch, and when it is time for them to foal they are brought in to the foaling stables to be kept under 24-hour observation. Most of the mares and foals are kept in the stables during the first five days after foaling to ensure the foals are healthy before being put out into the nursery paddocks. The foals are also given some basic handling, including being taught to lead, while they are still at the stables. Weaned young horses are kept separately in filly and colt groups in large paddocks, and each one has an older horse in with them to keep an eye on things. ''We always like having an older horse in with the weanlings because then if there's a storm or something and they get a fright, instead of running towards the fence they tend to run towards the older horse, which helps prevent injuries,'' Mrs Whishaw said. One area where the Whishaws can also see a potential market is the spelling of racehorses. Mrs Whishaw said professional spelling of racehorses was not a service that was readily available in Tasmania. ''There are quite a few people who spell racehorses, but not everyone does it really well, so we can see a potential market there,'' she said. ''It's really important that when they're out for a spell that they have a spell mentally and physically.'' Mrs Whishaw said while each horse was an individual, most spelling horses needed to be turned out into large paddocks with plenty of feed where they had company and could unwind after the rigours of racing and training. ''I think with our experience it's something we could do really well, so we're going to look at expanding,'' she said. Mrs Whishaw said while foaling down other people's mares with often highly valuable foals could be stressful, it was also one of the most enjoyable parts of the job. ''When you go for a drive around the paddock at sunset and see all the foals running around together playing, it's really wonderful,'' she said. Mrs Whishaw said that with the whole family involved with the business, they may also look at marketing more of their yearlings interstate, where the market for good-quality horses was higher. ''Our horses have been doing well on the mainland, so I think that's something we're going to look at doing a bit more,'' she said.
September 16th 2010
September 30th 2010