July 2011

Cattle are the dominant livestock on West Gippsland farms. Perhaps the change of scenery – to sheep and their fleeces – might explain the popularity of the July activity. The Australian Sheep and Wool show at Bendigo proved to be well worth the four hour bus trip for those WOF members keen to get away for the day.

This annual sheep event has been showcasing Australia’s top wool growers and prime lamb producers for decades. The show has expanded to attract thousands of fans of woollen fashion, food and fibre. It was also obvious that this show provides the opportunity for studs to market their stock. With the return of good seasons and viable pastures, there was an evidently strong interest from purchasers and farmers keen to re-build herds with new blood.

Many pavilions were overflowing with displays of craft activities and items made from wool and blends. Other buildings housed a wide range of sheep breeds, fleece competitions and shearing equipment.

While wool tended to be the dominant focus, meat sheep and dual purpose varieties were well represented. For the craft-oriented, there was interest in the coloured breeds, as well as in fleeces from possum, alpaca and rabbit.

On the arena and in wonderful sunshine, sheep dog trials took place all day, with a notably pleasing number of women handlers working their kelpies and border collies.

The feature sheep for the 2011 show was the Dorper breed. It is reputedly a fast growing, meat producing sheep particularly known for the ability to adapt and survive in a variety of climatic and grazing conditions. The Dorper was originally bred from the more arid regions of South Africa in the 1930s. Initially imported into Australia in the mid 1990s, its suitability to most climatic conditions has seen the Dorper develop into one of the largest meat sheep breeds in Australia today. The Dorper breeds are low maintenance and easy care, are non- selective grazers and can thrive in harsh conditions.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women, you do not have to be a farmer to participate.

Our Tuesday 6th September activity will be a visit to Chisholm Institute of TAFE, Cranbourne. For more details contact our secretary, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our web site at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2011 monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.