The Cloverleaf farm & wool story
The farm comprises of 34 hectares (80 acres) for wool growing, of which 1/3 is maintained for the sole use of native flora and fauna. This gives 50 acres of land used for the farm.
The farm is situated within the Western Victorian Volcanic Plains, with a local elevation of 600 meters and an average rainfall of 650 mm per year. The property adjoins Lerderderg State Park, a 14,250 hectare park where walking tracks and camping is allowed and is situated directly west of Mount Bullengarook, a retired volcano.
With the close proximity to large parks and the 'tread lightly' concept held on the farm we share the property with many wonderful Australian animals including Kangaroos, Wombats, Laughing Kookaburras, Sulphur crested cockatoos, Yellow-tailed black cockatoos, Blue winged grass parrots, Wedge tailed eagles, Red-rumped spotted pardalots, Fairy wrens, Boobook and Brown owls, microbats and the occasional Koala. Fencing developed on the property seeks to be both kangaroo and wombat friendly. Plain wire fences have replaced the old barbed wire with sighter wire established so the large kangaroos can jump over, with the lower wires wide enough for the young joeys and wombats to pass through.
The domestic animals on the property play an integral role just as the people themselves. Being a small property this endeavor will remain a small boutique stud. Currently 70 sheep graze the property. This is near maximum to enable ongoing sustainable paddock and pasture management. This is maintained by rotating the sheep from paddock to paddock in line with permaculture principles.
I seek wherever possible to follow organic practice, and while not organically certified, the property does not use organophosphate fertilisers or chemcials. The sheep remain in family groups, are not mulesed and are not pressured as I do not use dogs or vehicles to move them. I spend time with the flock and they have learned to follow when called......sooooo much easier! I also use low tech handlers so no large noises, and I still roll my eyes when trying to shear a sheep who insists on nibbling your shirt and being completely distracted while being shorn. The sheep are part of the large extended farm family, thus this is also a no kill farm.
Genetics and nutrition
Genetics and nutrition play a pivotal role in the development of the sheep and the fleece. There is the need to be very pedantic with any breeding due to the limitation of numbers on the property and the desire to maintain a fleece specific for use with spinners. The sheep graze predominantly on a rotating pasture basis and they have the opportunity to ad lib minerals as these are provided for them. Given the low pH of the soil there are essential minerals not available to them.
The Corriedale was developed in Australia and New Zealand around 1863 by crossing Spanish fine wool Merino sheep and English heritage breeds the Lincoln and English Leicester. These Merino crosses (½ bred) were named Corriedales with the benefit of the lustre and staple length of the English heritage breeds and the fine Merino to decrease the micron.
Their wool can withstand cold winters and high rainfall that was not possible with the finer merino fleeces. Together with the animals sturdy constitution, good mothering abilities and strong structure meant they could traverse steep countryside and prosper on poor ground.
I chose the Corriedale due to the climate of the property. I needed a more open fleece that was not prone to flystrike or wool rot (damp conditions). To date I have not used any chemicals to prevent flystrike as this, nor woolrot, has ever been a problem with these sheep. I also needed sheep with good feet and bone structure to cope with the clay and alternately rock on the property.
The genetic lines used within this stud come from Western Victoria and include studs established in the mid 1850's and demonstrate a bright white fleece between 24-29 micron, with ewes cutting on average 6.5kg fleece per year and the rams 8.5 kg. As the fleece is very soft it does not have the 'prickle factor' of some harsher fleeces of the same micron. The sheep on this property have been bred for wool softness and crimp definition. This medium wool is grouped with other wool types such as the European derived Finn breed.
On a more personal note, all the sheep have names and are very easily identifiable by their looks, behaviors and personalities. I swear it! Each have their own little quirks and habits. The stud is registered with the Australian Corriedale Association (flock no. 2422).
History of interest:
In the late 1800's these ½ bred sheep (Corriedales) were crossed back with Merino sheep (¾ bred), by the Dennis family. This cross was called a Polwarth. The stud books of the Corriedale and Polwarth were closed around 1914 to stabilise the fleece characteristics. The changeable nature of cross bred fleeces mean they are often not reproducible.
Interestingly, in NSW from 1909 parallel breeding was conducted with Lincoln and Merino sheep. Called the 'Commercial Corriedale', later 'Bond Corriedale' after the breeder. There are some stories stating some of these 'Bond Corriedales' have been crossed back again to Merinos (¾ bred), thus these crossbreds may be 'Polwarth like', however are unable to be called either a Corriedale or Polwarth. The 'Bond Corriedale' association was formed in 1984 with 8 studs listed in Australia.