Years of careful selection with a focus on producing consistent quality prime lamb sires is paying dividends for the Rowley family's successful Springwaters Poll Dorset stud.
This year marks 40 years of breeding for Springwaters, which is run by Dane Rowley, his wife Lisa and parents Dennis and Jo-anne, and demand for their commercially-orientated rams continues to grow.
The operation now comprises about 800 stud ewes which the Rowleys' run alongside a herd of 280 commercial and stud Angus breeders on their 1000-hectare property at Boorowa in southern NSW.
The stud's key phenotypes of fast growth, heavy muscling and structural soundness is the result of many years of breeding and this focus has not changed, according to stud principal Dane Rowley.
"Our key breeding objectives have continued to revolve around producing a consistent line of rams with high growth rates at an early age, making them ideally suited for commercial sucker lamb production," he said.
"Having repeatable genetics is important to us.
"This means clients can come to us with the confidence that the rams this year will be very similar to what they bought last year."
The breeding program is split with half of the stud ewes lambing in autumn while the remainder lamb in the spring.
"Split lambing helps with ease of management and allows for better utilisation of our major stud sires.
"It also ensures there is sufficient numbers of young rams available and new genetics coming through all the time, the best of both drops of rams will go into our sale."
Our key breeding objectives have continued to revolve around producing a consistent line of rams with high growth rates at an early age, making them ideally suited for commercial sucker lamb production.
Artificial insemination is also carried out in the autumn to speed the rate of genetic gain in the flock. A mix of home-bred sires and selected outside genetics is used.
"We might have 10-12 sires each year but about three to four rams will get a much bigger percentage of the ewes, it's about trying to maximise those elite sires that we rely on to breed quality flock rams," he said.
According to Mr Rowley, one sire to have a significant influence on the stud is Springwaters 310/14 who consistently produces outstanding progeny featuring heavy bone, early maturity and a meaty carcase.
"He is a great example of the type of sheep we are trying to breed and our past two sales have featured more than 110 rams sired by him."
Another ram which is having a big impact on their stud is Springwaters Pocock, who won the Supreme Prime Lamb Exhibit at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 2017. The young ram has been used extensively, both in their stud as well as by other leading NSW breeders.
"We believe Pocock is shaping up to be the sire that guides the direction of our breeding program.
"His first drop of lambs is just coming through now and display amazing consistency and this year's ram sale will be dominated by his progeny."
Springwaters uses New Zealand-based Stockscan technology to provide accurate information on a range of performance traits. All the rams are scanned at 11-12 months of age for weight, eye muscle area and fat depth. This information is then used to calculate a meat index for each ram.
"We also record the size of all lambs at birth and correlate that into our catalogues with the Stockscan figures, basically we want them to have as much weight and maturity as young lambs."
The Rowley family also pride themselves on finishing all the sale rams on grass, with little or no grain supplementation.
"If our rams can grow and mature with minimal supplementation, we think it provides a more accurate reflection of our genetics and how they perform."
They currently sell about 300-350 rams each year, with 180 offered at their annual on-property sale, which this year is on Friday, October 4.
Most of the Springwaters client base is aimed at producing prime lambs for the sucker market, with buyers coming from throughout southern NSW, the Riverina district, the South-West Slopes and southern Tablelands region, as well as interstate interest.
"We have really focused on developing relationships with our clients as they provide valuable feedback on the end point of lamb production which is the important part.
"Increasingly our clients are genuine, professional lamb producers, who really know what they want and need in their operation.
"They view buying rams as a genetic investment and a key profit driver."
The Springwaters stud has also enjoyed plenty of success in the show ring and regularly attends the Sydney Royal Easter Show, NSW Dorset Championships, the Australian Sheep and Wool Show and the Australasian Dorset Championships, both held in Bendigo, Vic.
"Showing still has its place but it's the sale when our philosophy is on display, providing the volume of paddock rams with consistency down the line is what our customers want to see, far more than a sample of elite show rams."
"It's a day not just for our clients but for our friends and the community to come and see what we have been working towards.
"Half the crowd that rolls in is there for the lamb burgers and to support us and we love that."