Endorsement from Bec Hamilton
July 6, 2022
Every breeder - no matter what the animal - has a reason for choosing the stock they have and it’s no exception for the Hamilton family of Bradford Hills, Victoria.
Bec, husband James and children Claire (17), Alice (15) and Tom (13) are merino sheep breeders and, more importantly, they’re repeat clients of Ashmore White Suffolks. Buying rams to put over their flock has allowed Bec and her family to breed the sheep necessary for their conditions in central and western Victoria.
“I married a Merino wool grower and never had a background in sheep breeding, but I did study agricultural science at university and took an interest in genetics my first job out of university within the Australian dairy genetics industry. That’s where I developed a love for breeding.”
While at university Bec worked in a butcher shop at the Queen Victoria Markets and developed a passion for meat quality.
This passion led her to follow and study the science behind meat quality. With all of this behind her and now a Merino wool breeding husband by her side and children at foot, Bec immersed herself in the local school and kindergarten, and picked up the farm’s bookwork.
“James said to me one day, I wish you would spend more time in the business with me,” Bec said. When that time came, Bec said it was a by-chance opportunity for her to attend a Bred Well/Fed Well seminar that lead her to seek high performance studs using search tools in Australian Sheep Genetics LambPlan. She looked at the data and analysed what was important and which rams she wanted and from that point on, Bec hasn’t looked back.
“I went to my first ram sale with my analysed spreadsheet of data and was hooked. I do love ram sales.”
On-farm they have a self-replacing Merino flock and this year have joined 16,000 Merino ewes. Upon buying a farm in western Victoria about 14 years ago, it was evident Merinos couldn’t be easily managed there. That’s where Ashmore White Suffolk rams come into the picture. Being the keen researcher she is, Bec looked at the Australian Sheep Genetics database and searched her preferences which included rams throwing low birth weight and a high growth rate.
“Running down that list of individual animals there was a number that were in the top 100 but the Ashmore name continued to come up.”
It was 2016 when, out of the blue, Bec called Troy and Nette to talk about their rams. “I didn’t know them from a bar of soap. I said ‘Hi, you don’t know me, we are Merino producers but we are really interested in your genetics’,” Bec said.
Troy and Nette were busy rebuilding from the devastating Pinery fire which took a huge toll on their farm - something Bec didn’t know anything about.
“We knew nothing of what had happened with their business and the fire, they were so kind, gracious and inviting. They are passionate breeders.”
She flew in for the Ashmore ram sale that year where she purchased 21 rams. “We were the bulk buyer and I just keep going back to the Fischer’s each and every year,” Bec said. Following the devastating effects of the Pinery Fire in 2016, the Fischer family have rebuilt and continue to put their Ashmore White Suffolks on the map.
“In my opinion, they stepped away from that horrible experience in a positive manner.
The strategy they took to rebuild and get on with things, they are a wonderful young couple who deserve to be supported,” Bec said.
But what is it about the Ashmore rams?
“I’m looking for ease of lambing and growth rate; at present we only get paid on the weight of the carcass. I think it’s really important that Troy and Nette are behind the scenes working out the flavour and meat characteristics. I’m looking for a good carcass weight and growing performance, really.”
The Hamilton’s breeding program includes first crossing their younger cull Merino ewes to white suffolks and then to Border Leicesters on subsequent joinings. Bec said they were now looking at becoming a breeder for commercial restockers looking for productive performance ewes.
“Some first cross White Suffolk/Merino ewe lambs fetch good prices as weaners - there’s a market for that composite, we have people chasing that progeny. It’s largely Ashmore breeding, they’re competitively priced.”
“What Troy and Nette have been doing is speaking my language, I increasingly see myself as a scientist. How can we be more productive, reduce generational intervals and advance breeding technology to get more from our animals?”
Bec said the progeny were performing really well and they are securing repeat buyers for their ewe lambs.
“The rams are settled, really calm, easy to manage; they tick the box with regard to the ease of lambing and growth rates, which is what we were chasing.”
“They’re just beautiful animals that are good to handle and most importantly they perform well on their genetics.” Bec said.