Glenthompson Pastoral Company trades a substantial amount of sheep to the domestic meat industry, although sheep are additionally bred and fattened for export supply to meet the demands of various global marketplaces. The GPC flock is composed of numerous breeds of sheep, and cross-breeds, selected for in terms of providing favourable characteristics of size, weight and temperament. In addition to supplying a premium product to the meat industry, GPC services the demands of the wool industry predominantly through the output of a very good fine Merino breeding line.
The Mann Family first purchased Brie Brie in 1936. At the time the property was stocked with a Merino flock that I R Mann later substituted for the Pollworth breed in order to establish a flock providing better meat with more robust feet. Until 1996 the property remained predominantly stocked with a Pollworth flock, however, at this time E A Mann made the transition to cross Merino rams over his Pollworth breeding females with the explicit aim of developing a cross-breed with the qualities of size, resilience, high wool-yield, better quality fleeces and improved fertility.
Prior to the transition in 1996 the flock sheep had been considered unfavourably small, cutting approximately 4 kilograms of wool and with a micron ranging between 19-26 across the flock. In terms of genetics, no external rams had been introduced for an extended period and as such the breeding diversity was limited at that time. Nevertheless, with the changes implemented by E A Mann, today Brie Brie can attest to having a vastly improved flock of sheep producing upwards of 5 kilograms of very white, stylish wool, with a pronounced crimp and a finer micron ranging from 19-22 across the flock. In addition, Brie Brie wethers have proven to be in increased demand in the marketplace due to improved flock characteristics of size and weight.
The introduction of externally bred rams was first led by a purchase from the stud at Woolaroo in Yass, NSW. Aside from selecting rams in favour of certain physical characteristics, the stud at Woolaroo demonstrated a similar philosophy to GPC in that their rams were reared in the natural environment with minimal force-feeding, pampering and housing, which were found to have been common practices to so many other studs at the time. More recently, bloodlines were introduced from Dubbo and subsequently from Langdene. The rams were characterised by outstanding physical attributes and have since been joined to the 100 top breeding ewes from the GPC flock. As a result of this breeding, the offspring have proven to possess vastly superior characteristics of weight, size and fleece yield. The next generation of rams sired by the introduced rams have subsequently been crossed over the remaining GPC flock ewes with equally favourable results.
In the order of 4,000 ewes are joined to the Merino rams annually, with approximately 300 ewes being joined to Border Leicester rams in the same cycle. GPC operates a Border Leicester stud, producing rams for breeding purposes as well as for on-sale to the broader marketplace. The Border Leicester flock is based on Morton bloodlines from the south-east region of South Australia. From the breeding program, each year a proportion of 18 month-old first-cross ewes are sold in Ballarat in the December and January markets. Of the initial flock of 18 month-old ewes, a proportion is first drafted and typically kept to run at Larra where they are joined to Dorset rams. In terms of sheep at the property, Larra is predominantly occupied by approximately 1,000 breeding ewes and prime lambs.
Fraser McKenzie has been actively involved in classing the GPC flock in recent years, following on from an extended period of classing by Jack Stevens. Fraser is sympathetic to the aims of the GPC breeding program in terms of selecting for specific characteristics in body weight, fleece weight, fertility, white wool and style. Fraser additionally selects sheep on the basis of conformation and hardiness in terms of prospering under a pasture-based feeding system. On this basis, Fraser classes the GPC flock by three means:
- Selection of the premium ewes from within the flock to establish the top 100 selected breeding ewes
- Selection of ewes suitable for inclusion in the GPC commercial flock
- Selection in favour of stronger wool characteristics in individual ewes to be subsequently joined to Border Leicester rams