A Hampshire Down stud from Wollondale in the Southern Tablelands has taken gold at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show.
Five rams and five ewes from the Towrang-based stud made up the show team that travelled to the Bendigo event last month.
The rare breed specialists won the Champion Heritage Breed Group (two ewes and a ram), Champion British Breed Group, Supreme Australian Prime Lamb Group, Supreme Heritage Breeds Exhibit, and the Supreme Australian Prime Lamb Breeds Exhibit.
Stud manager Matthew Sherwood, who has been in his role for close to 10 years, said it was his favourite ram that took out the big prize.
“My son called him Bill,” Mr Sherwood recalled fondly, saying he never expected the ram would perform so well.
The sheep were judged on their balance, ratio and commercial meat value in addition to how they compared and represented the breed.
“This is the type of sheep that we’re trying to breed and the type of sheep we’re aiming for,” Mr Sherwood said.
“It’s very rare for our breed to be able to accomplish something like that against some of the more popular breeds.”
Wollondale Hampshire Down Stud not only won against its own breed, but the group class.
Despite winning ribbons in the past at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, this was their first time winning an interbreed competition.
Mr Sherwood, who selected the group for the competition, said it came down to diet, presentation, years of breeding, and careful selection.
There are about 200 in the stud flock.
Stud owner John Cordukes said he was also stunned about having defeated the bigger, more popular breeds of sheep.
“It’s very unusual for a rare breed like the Hampshire Down, but we’re very excited about that,” Mr Cordukes said.
“It’s not one quality that sets them apart, it’s the total animal put together: the frame, the size, and the way they are meat-producing animals.”
He said the sheep had proved to be particularly good at producing small lambs at birth that became fast-growing and meaty lambs to sell to the market.
The stud has been breeding the Hampshire Down for 12 years, since Mr Cordukes bought the initial seed flock from popular Tasmanian breeder Rodney Summers.
“We’re small in numbers compared to other breeds, but quite big for our breed,” he said. “The terminal sire has been a great success, with other breeders using our rams and breeding high-quality rams.” He hoped the Wollondale winning streak would continue.