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TAS Country : January 6th 2011
10 Friday, Janu Feature Farm Winton HERITAGE: John Taylor Jnr against a backdrop of some of the cropping ground on the Winton property, near Campell Town. There may be 175 years of breeding history in the paddocks of Winton, but the Taylor family's renowned wool operation is anything but stuck in the past, writes Karolin MacGregor To the Merino bor PICTURESQUE Winton, alongside the Macquarie River, is home to the state's Flock 1 Saxon Merino stud and recently celebrated its 175th anniversary, making it the world's oldest officially registered stud. Recognised in 2009 as one of the state's top 10 historical places Winton is proof of what generations of work and dedication by a family can achieve. Six generations of Taylors have presided over the property which is now run by John and Vera Taylor and their son, John. Mr Taylor said each generation had gradually added land to the farm, which started out with about 324ha and is now about 3300ha. A long narrow property, Winton stretches several kilometres from the Macquarie River right through to Conara. ''The Midlands was one of the first areas to be settled because it was naturally more open country and didn't require clearing,'' Mr Taylor said. About one third of the property is made up of bush or native run country, which is ideal for wool production. There is also about 200ha of ground used for cropping and about 500ha of improved pastures. John said there was potential to also develop more of the farm, but it needed careful management because of its light, sandy soils. The original homestead was built in 1821 and the surrounding outbuildings --- including a blacksmith area, coach house, stables, barns and the wool and shearing sheds --- were constructed between 1832-1850. Much of the original timber in the wool and shearing shed, which includes Oregon and cedar, is still intact. Wool has always been a primary focus of the farming operation at Winton and that is still the case today. Looking at photographs taken of Winton sheep over the generations it is easy to see which direction breeding trends took. From the early days when the stud was first established in 1835 with plainer-bodied Saxons, the push for more body wrinkle over the years can clearly be seen. Nowadays, however, the breeding program has gone full circle and the plainer-bodied Saxons are once again the aim. Maintaining the unique Saxon-style wool is something that none of the Taylors has compromised on. To keep its reputation as a pure Saxon flock, Winton has a closed breeding program that includes genetics from the six distinct sheep families within the stud. With very few pure Saxon flocks left in the world, this gives Winton a unique marketing angle and this is something the Taylors have used to their advantage. The Taylors run about 12,000 sheep on the property and each individual animal has an extensive pedigree. The flock has an average micron of about 17, but Mr Taylor said there would be sheep much finer than that and some a little broader. Mr Taylor said maintaining the integrity and quality of the wool was the main focus which meant keeping a careful balance between all the wool's characteristics. ''The Saxon wool is unique because it has a lightness and the softness that is produced naturally,'' he said. The natural tight spiral crimp of the Saxon wool makes it very soft and light but also provides a natural elasticity that means it will stretch, but also hold its shape in a garment. These characteristics make it highly sought by high-end clothing manufacturers. Recognising this, the Taylors have joined forces with a handful of daughter studs and other pure Saxon wool producers to supply wool to specific buyers who are willing to pay a premium for their unique fleeces. They sell wool to Brooks Brothers in the United States who market it under the Saxxon brand. The finer end of the clip is also sold under the Escorial brand which is named after the Spanish royal flock where best of the Saxon merinos originated. The wool is used to make a variety of high- quality garments including suiting material and knitwear. ''The selling point is really the story and that gives us an advantage when we're selling to these niche markets,'' Mr Taylor said. With a limited supply of pure Saxon wool and steadily increasing demand, Mr Taylor said they felt quite positive about the future of their wool enterprise. ''I think we're quite lucky because we have been able to find a very specific market that suits the type of wool we produce,'' Mr Taylor said. While the family is starting to use more breed indexing in their genetic selections, Mrs Taylor said choosing the breeding program was still very much a hands-on process at the stud. ''I think it's real credit to the men that have run the stud all these years that they have been able to achieve what they have, because it all comes down
December 23rd 2010
January 13th 2011